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Call No. 4>2. < J'Sr/ 4fc.7 /| Accession No. g }(}?_ A 1 _ 


This book should be returned on or before the date last nJtrked below. 


at Springhill 




Copyright I960 by Leonard Lerner 

ights reserved, including the right to reproduce 
this book or portions thereof in any form. 

First Edition 

Library of Congress Catalog Card Number: 60-12014 

Printed in the United States of America 

To the men and women and the children 
of Springhill for their abiding faith, their 
grim determination, their quiet courage. 


















Clouds of Tragedy 

It was Wednesday, October 22, 1958. Black clouds moved 
across the Nova Scotia shore to stand above the little 
town of Springhill. It was a mining town, draped across 
a rounded hillat 650 feet the highest bit of land in all 
Cumberland county. 

The town had dominated, and been dominated by, the 
coal mining industry in Canada. In the heart of the town 
stood a stone and marble monument, topped by f he figure 
of a miner. It was a monument to the 125 men who had 
died in SpringhilFs first disaster, in 1891. It served as a 
reminder to those of the town of the peril they constantly 

Springhill, which had been settled in 1790, had been 
associated with coal since 1833. At first early settlers dug 
it only for their own use. But as the years progressed, and 
mining grants were obtained, mining became an industry 
and the industry grew. By 1870 local businessmen had 


2 Miracle at Springhill 

formed the Springhill Mining Company and started build- 
ing a railroad to a nearby town. 

But the town's progress was marred by disaster. As 
recently as November 1, 1956, a giant explosion had 
rocked the No. 4 Colliery of the Dominion Steel and Coal 
Corporation, Ltd., taking the lives of thirty-nine men. 
And in 1957 a fire wreaked further havoc on the town of 
only seven thousand. 

Now, in 1958, the pits in Nos. 1, 3, and 4 had been 
closed. The mine payroll was well below half its peak of 
a few decades before. The men who went down into the 
mine the company minerswere making about eleven 
dollars a day. Some others, contract workers, averaged 
fifteen dollars a day for a five-day week. They were paid 
on the basis of the amount of coal they produced. Usually 
even the contract workers did not make seventy-five dol- 
lars in a week. Illness, equipment breakdown, and trouble 
all cut into working time. 

Despite this, more than seventy percent of these min- 
ers owned their homes, and most of them owned cars. 
These possessions, a collection of furniture, and the love 
of a family were their holdings. But these few belongings 
were enough for the strange, hardened men who looked 
death in the eye every working day, who lived in a dying 
town and worked in a dying industry, who lived so close 
to death they were almost unconscious of its touch. 

Louis Frost, chief mining engineer for the Dominion 
Steel and Coal Corporation, had finished his inspection 
of the mine's remaining No. 2 pit on this day, October 22. 
Frost reported that he had never seen the mine "in such 
good shape/' He expected no trouble, although he had 
heard that for several months the miners who worked 

Clouds of Tragedy 3 

No. 2 had been predicting something would happen. 

Frost was pleased with the condition of the mine and 
with the progress of the Longwall Retreat mining system. 

In the Longwall system miners worked the entire thick- 
ness of the seam, and in No. 2 this meant a tunnel 400 
feet long. 

On various levels along the 13,000-foot slope the miners 
had bored long shafts into the seam and begun to work 
back, mining the coal as they retreated. Special crews of 
men hauled down the roof behind them. 

No electrical tools or explosives were used in this mine, 
for fear that a spark might touch off an underground blast. 
The men used compressed-air picks to chip out the coal 
and loaded the black ore on a shaker pan conveyer, which 
worked just as its name implies it vibrated and ran to 
the pickup point for the ore. When miners pulled the coal 
off the face, they shovelled it onto the conveyer, whose 
belt ran powered by compressed air to the terminal of 
the little underground railroad that twisted back to the 
shaft. The coal was loaded into hand cars, pushed to the 
shaft, and drawn up out of the ground by the bucket, a 
combination freight and passenger elevator which linked 
the men to the outer world. 

As each of the two work shifts ended, the maintenance 
men erected roof supports all the way up and down the 
face. These trusses ran five feet apart in a line parallel 
to the face. They were called packs. At no time were 
there less than two rows of packs standing in the area 
where the men dug and sweated and cursed and shovelled 
the coal, hour after hour. 

A few months before, the company had proposed lining 
up the faces of all the working galleries in the mine. The 

4 Miracle at Springhill 

miners did not like it. Monson Harrison, President of 
Local 4514 of the United Mineworkers of America, met 
with Vice-President Harold C.M. Gordon of the company. 
The miners said their system of staggered working areas 
gave them protection against bumps. Gordon, one of 
Canada's best mining engineers, said this was not so. The 
mine had been plagued with minor bumps recently, and 
he attributed them to the failure of the unmined material 
the roofsto collapse behind the retreating men. If all 
the faces were lined up, he said, the roofs could be 
collapsed more easily. 

Gordon's plan was put into effect, and it seemed to 
work. For many weeks the mine had been worked with- 
out a bump. There were differences of opinion, of course, 
differences which were aired endlessly over beer in the 
basement of the old brick Miners' hall next to the monu- 
ment. But that was the way it was to be done. The in- 
spectors were satisfied with the system. 

At 11 o'clock on the night of October 22, 1958, Police 
Chief Leo "Sailor" MacDonald took his usual post at the 
foot of Main Street. There, not far from the entrance to 
the mine grounds, an arch over the driveway proclaimed 
that this was the property of the company. The men who 
worked the afternoon shift, from 3:00 to 11:00 P.M., would 
be going home soon, so Chief MacDonald was on hand 
to direct traffic. 

At 11:30 P.M., Charlie Burton, hero of the 1956 explo- 
sion, arrived at his home on Athol Road in his new gray 
and pink Meteor sedan. 

Charlie Burton was proud of his car and was fond of 

Clouds of Tragedy 5 

showing off the radio-speaker he had installed on the 
shelf behind the back seat. Whenever there was a pas- 
senger in the car he would demonstrate by switching the 
sound from the front to the back. 

Burton did not seem tired. As he walked into the two- 
story turquoise house, with its coal-stained trim, he told 
his wife he was anxious to look through the new seed 
catalogue that had arrived in the morning mail. 

Kathleen Burton was sitting in the kitchen, knitting a 
pair of socks when her husband walked in. She leaned 
toward him as he kissed her. 

"What's to eat?" he asked. It was always the same ques- 
tion, even at the homes of friends and relatives. 

"Hot tea and a sandwich." 

"How are the boys?" Burton asked as he sat down and 
opened the seed catalogue. 

"They're asleep." 

The boys were the Burton sons, Billy, who at twenty- 
two stood six feet tall, like his father; and Gary, a twelve- 
year-old blond. A third son, Merlin, had recently turned 
eighteen. He was with the Canadian army, stationed in 

Burton thumbed through the catalogue as he ate and 
sipped the hot tea. Kathleen resumed her knitting. 

When he had finished, Burton stood up and stretched 
his arms. "Let's go to bed. IVe got to drive into Amherst 

His wife put away the half-finished sock and stood up. 
Oh, yes. He was going to get the favors for the ball. It 
was good for Charlie to be interested in the Knights of 
Columbus Ball. He had missed last year, because he had 

6 Miracle at Springhill 

had to work, but Charlie was on the day shift next week. 
They would be able to go. 

The Burtons walked upstairs to their bedroom. 

At 11:45 P.M., thin-faced Levi Milley arrived home. He 
parked his 1951 green Studebaker in the driveway and 
as usual walked to the back of the blue and white house 
on North Street to check on his chickens. He peeked into 
the coops to make sure the small light was burning, to 
encourage them to lay. 

Then Levi Milley peered carefully and closely at the 
house. His wife, Velda, had painted the trim that after- 

Velda was sitting up, waiting for him when he walked 
in the back door. His sixteen-year-old daughter, Judy, 
was asleep, her school books piled neatly on the kitchen 
table ready for the next morning. A ruler and several 
pencils were placed alongside the books. 

Milley pecked his wife on the cheek, said, "Hi," and 
glanced over to the gleaming white kitchen range to see 
if the steaming tea pot was on. 

"Hungry?" Velda asked. 

"I could stand a cup of tea." 

"How did things go?" Velda got up to pour the tea 
and put several cookies on a plate. He never ate more 
than that at night. 

"About the same," the miner answered. "Things are 
pretty quiet." 

Mrs. Milley was pleased. If things were quiet, that was 
the way they should be. 

"You did a nice job on the painting." 

Clouds of Tragedy 7 

'Til finish tomorrow/' she replied, smiling at the com- 

The two sat at the kitchen table while the miner lighted 
a cigarette. He drew a few deep drags, sighed, and 
snuffed it out. 

'Tin tired/' he said. "Let's go to bed." 

By 12:30 A.M. the Milley house was in darkness. 

Bowman Maddison did not own an automobile. A fel- 
low-worker, Byron "Barney'' Martin, drove him home to 
the gray house on North Street that night. 

Maddison was twenty-seven when he married sandy- 
haired Solange in 1943, but in the fifteen years that fol- 
lowed he had never been able to save enough money to 
buy even a second-hand car. 

When he married, Maddison bought a piece of land 
from the mine company for fifty dollars. His buddies 
helped him convert the shack that stood on the property 
into a home. Now it had two bedrooms, a sunporch, a 
front room, a kitchen, and a bathroom. 

"There's still lots to be done on the house," he said to 
himself as he paused on the unpaved street, after saying 
goodnight to Martin, 

Solange was waiting up for him in the kitchen. She was 
feeding the boy, three-and-a-half month-old Constantinos. 

The other children, Zora, a tall girl, who looked older 
than her fourteen years, and twelve-year-old Alden, who 
had his father's quiet disposition, were both asleep. 

Solange was busy with the baby, so M'addison put some 
canned tomato soup to warm on the stove. Then he asked 
how the children were. 

8 Miracle at Springhill 

"Everyone's fine/' his wife replied, putting the baby 
over her shoulder. "Everything go all right tonight? 77 

Her husband paused. He frowned when he finally said, 
"It was quiet enough, but I felt funny all night. I don't 
know what it is. Maybe it's too quiet. Maybe I'm just 

He poured the hot soup into a bowl, took a doughnut 
from the breadbox, and sat down to eat. 

The baby let out a tiny burp and Solange smiled as 
she carried the child into the bedroom. Then she came out 
to sit with her husband. 

When Maddison finished, she put the bowl in the sink. 

The miner checked the furnace and he and his wife 
went to bed. 

Garnet Clarke was not quite twenty-nine years old and, 
as yet, he did not have a wife. He did have a girl-friend 
named Stella and a 1950 Pontiac- but this was a work 
night. He arrived home on Herrett Road at 12:20 A.M. 

Clarke lived with his father, brother, sister-in-law, and 
her two children, but everyone was asleep. 

Quietly, so as not to disturb the household, Clarke 
opened a can of pears and got out a dish. He turned on 
the flame under the pot of tea and sat down to read the 
paper while he ate. When the tea was ready, he poured a 
cup, strong, and sipped it slowly. 

A half-hour later he tiptoed to his bedroom upstairs. 

Maurice Ruddick, a forty-six-year-old mulatto, walked 
home that night to Herrett Road. It was only five minutes' 
walk from the mine. 

This handsome miner, with black wavy hair and an 

Clouds of Tragedy 9 

Adolphe Menjou moustache, walked in the door a few 
minutes after midnight. He felt good. The work at the 
mine never seemed to tire him. He sang while he worked, 
and when he did, the men working near him forgot for a 
while the heat and sweat and itch of the coal dust. 

Ruddick's wife, Norma, had come home several days 
before from All Saints Hospital with their twelfth child, a 
girl they christened Katreena May. 

Norma was awake. So were their three oldest daughters. 
The other children were asleep upstairs. 

When he walked in the door the girls kissed their father, 
then their mother, and went to bed. They had to go to 
school in the morning. 

Norma was still too weak to scurry about the kitchen. 
Ruddick fried a plate of bacon and ate it with crackers 
and tea. 

When he finished eating, he cleaned off the long table, 
washed the few dishes, and said goodnight to his wife. 
She went to bed. 

The miner went into the small room off the kitchen, 
turned on his tape recorder, lighted a cigar, and sat back 
on the divan to listen. 

He heard his own resonant baritone voice singing "The 
Sheik of Araby." Ruddick was part of a local quartet. The 
four had been singing together around town for the past 
seven years. It was a source of great satisfaction and relax- 
ation to Ruddick, whom the town had fondly dubbed 
"The Singing Miner/' 

When the song was over, Ruddick turned off the re- 
corder, switched off the downstairs lights, and went up- 
stairs to bed. Norma was already asleep, so Ruddick read 

10 Miracle at Springhill 

the New York News and the New York Mirror before he 
fell asleep at 3:30 A.M., his alarm set for 7:45. 

Now the ominous clouds of yesterday were gone, and 
the bright moon gleamed above the sleeping town, its pale 
light kind to the worn houses and rutted streets. Bowman 
Maddison's fears that it was too quiet seemed hardly war- 
ranted on such a peaceful night. 


The Curse of Old Njimber Two 

Thursday, October 23, 1958, dawned bright and sunny 
and warm. The surrounding hills were splashed with the 
colors of autumn. It was an Indian summer day that set 
men's thoughts to things other than coal. 

Charlie Burton awoke at 8:00 A.M. and got right out 
of bed. His wife had the bacon, eggs, and tea on the 
table when he came downstairs, still rubbing the last 
traces of sleep from his eyes. 

The two boys had already left the house. The sixth- 
grader, Gary, was on his way to the West End School. 
Billy, the older boy, had gone to visit some friends for the 

Burton finished his breakfast quickly. He rose from the 
table and put on his jacket. "Ill be home about noon/' 
he told his wife, as he started for his car. 

He drove into nearby Amherst, picked up the favors for 
the Knights of Columbus Ball, but he was home at noon. 


12 Miracle at Springhill 

While Kathleen prepared lunch, her husband talked to 
his sister, Mrs. Katherine Beaton, on the telephone. 

Then Charlie and his wife had their meal. 

Kathleen packed his black lunch can with sandwiches 
and filled his thermos bottle with hot tea. At two o'clock, 
he left for the mine. 

Levi Milley arose at seven-thirty, went outside to the 
back of the house and fed his chickens. Then he had his 
breakfast and drove his daughter, Judy, to the high school. 

By the time he came home, his wife, Velda, had put on 
old clothes. She painted the trim on the house while Mil- 
ley fixed some of the shingles. The couple worked together 
in the warm sunshine, pausing only long enough for lunch. 

At two o'clock, Velda packed his lunch can with two 
hardboiled eggs and two bran muffins. Milley never car- 
ried a thermos. At 2:30, he kissed his wife and left for the 
mine, after telling her that it seemed too nice a day to go 
to work. 

Bowman Maddison got up late that morning. It was 
9:45. The children, Zora and Alden, were at school. 

Solange had a cup of tea to keep her husband company 
while he ate bacon and eggs. After breakfast, they pushed 
away the dishes and remained seated at the table. Solange 
began a letter to the mail order department of the Eaton 
Company for winter clothes for the children. 

Her husband had a much different letter to write. He 
had composed a song, and if Juliette, a popular television 
entertainer in Toronto, would sing it on one of her shows, 
maybe he would make some money. 

He finished his letter to Juliette and carefully looked 

The Curse of Old Number Two 13 

over the lyrics to "Dearest, My Heart is Calling"; he 
hummed softly to himself as he read: 

Think of the years since we parted, feeling so 

lonely and blue, 

Why should I be broken hearted, 
When I love only you? 
I want you when shadows are falling, 
And I want you more than you know, 
Those mercuries of you still are calling, 
Calling me in the after glow. 
I see your face in the twilight, 
I hear your voice in the April rain. 
As all the drops softly patter, 
They whisper, "I love you" again and again. 
Tears from my eyes still are falling, 
Please make my dreams come true, 
Dearest, my heart is calling, 
Still calling for you. 

Solange had packed his lunch can with two shrimp 
sandwiches. Maddison tucked his wife's letter and his own 
into his jacket pocket and, lunch can under his arm, 
walked to the postoffice on Main Street. He kissed his 
letter for luck before dropping it in the box. 

Then the miner walked across the street to Jimmy's 
Candy Kitchen for his daily visit with his friend, Jimmy 
Demetre. They exchanged small- talk until 2:45, when it 
was time for the miner to leave for work. 

Garnet Clarke spent most of the early afternoon at his 
cousin's grocery store, across the street from his home. 

14 Miracle at Springhill 

He had awakened at 11:00 A.M., and after breakfast there 
was nothing much to do but hang around the store. 

His sister-in-law packed his lunch can with four sand- 
wiches and a piece of cake. He did not carry a thermos, 
since he preferred fresh water from his water can in the 

At ten minutes past two, Clarke left the house and 
drove to the mine. 

Maurice Ruddick, The Singing Miner, spent the day 
doing household chores for his wife, Norma. 

His alarm had gone off at 7:45 A.M., and he got out of 
bed, fed the children and shipped the oldest seven off to 

He thought about partridge hunting, it was such a fine 
day. Maybe on Saturday, his day off, he would do just that 
if the weather stayed good. 

Meanwhile, after the children went off to school, Rud- 
dick straightened up the house. He made the beds, washed 
the dishes, and dry-mopped the floors. Norma, still too 
weak to do any strenuous work, gave him instructions. He 
did not mind. 

Early in the afternoon the children came home from 
school. His oldest daughter made him a cup of hot tea and 
a sandwich. While he ate, she packed his lunch can with 
bread, honey, and cake. At 2:45 he left the house to walk 
to work. 

The 174 men on the afternoon shift reported directly to 
the mine's Wash House, the first step in their daily routine 
before going down into the pits. 

In this long, rambling building they changed into their 

The Curse of Old Number Two 15 

work clothes. A bucket suspended from the ceiling by 
pulleys, was lowered by each man. He took his work 
clothes from the bucket and put his street clothes in. 
Then he raised the bucket again to the ceiling to keep the 
floor area clear. Springhill's miners did not have the luxury 
of lockers. 

The rest of the building was cut into shower stalls. 
Here, after their shift, the men attempted to wash off some 
of the dust and grime, although they never succeeded in 
scrubbing it all away. 

From the Wash House the men walked fifty feet to the 
Lamp Room. They paused briefly in the sunshine, and 
someone said, looking up at the sky, it did not seem right 
to have to go down into the earth on such a lovely day. 

At the Lamp Room, rows upon rows of miners' lamps 
hung from a giant charging-machine that put new life into 
the batteries after each shift. Every miner carried an 
eight-sided brass tag, the size of a silver dollar. The tag 
was stamped with the figure 2, denoting No. 2 mine. A 
larger number indicated the number of the lamp assigned 
to each miner. At the bottom of the tag were the letters 
C. R. & C. Co.: the Cumberland Railway and Coal Com- 

The men handed their tags to thin, bespectacled Harry 
Weatherbee, who had spent forty-two of his fifty-six years 
with C. R. & C. Weatherbee knew every miner by his first 
name, rarely had to consult his book for a man's lamp 

Levi Milley turned in tag No. 1055. Weatherbee handed 
Milley his lamp and battery, and Milley slid it into place 
in the grooves at the front of his helmet. The cord from 
the lamp crossed the helmet, wont through a loop at the 

16 Miracle at Springhill 

back, and down to the battery which he hooked onto his 

Weatherbee put the tag on a large board. Here was 
the record of lamps issued to each miner. It was also a 
grim, but invaluable, record in case of disaster. 

If a man survived an explosion or a bump, when he 
came to the surface his lamp was turned into the Lamp 
Room and his tag removed from the board and returned 
to him. An accurate count of men still below at any given 
time could be made by checking the tags on the board. 

Bowman Maddison turned in tag No. 1122. Garnet 
Clarke handed in No. 766 and Maurice Ruddick gave up 
tag No. 624. Charlie Burton turned in tag No. 2007, the 
same he had always carried since the 1956 disaster. 

The only man to forget his tag was fifty-five-year-old 
Percy Rector. He had carried No. 1202 for more than 
twenty years, and this was the first time he had ever mis- 
placed it. 

Weatherbee instructed Rector to obtain a requisition 
slip at the mine manager's office. Rector returned in a few 
minutes with the slip and Weatherbee handed him a 

From the Lamp Room to the mine entrance it was 
seventy-five yards. Men who were ready early sat around 
on the bankhead and waited. Others filled their water 

As three o'clock approached, the area between the 
Lamp Room and the mine entrance filled until 174 miners 
milled about in the bright sunshine. 

At three sharp, they entered into the darkness of the 

Just inside the mine entrance they got into the rake. 

The Curse of Old Number Two 17 

A rake consisted of two or more trolleys hooked together 
and hauled up and down by strong cable, to transport the 
men to the various working levels. This kind of rake was 
called a man-rake. A coal-rake was made up of what the 
miners called boxes. It was used to carry coal to the sur- 

The man-rake was eased gently down the sloping tracks 
to the 7,800-foot level. Here the men got off to change to 
a second rake which would take them deeper into the 
mine, for SpringhilFs upper levels had long since been 
worked. The coal was now found over a mile below 
ground. To get to it, the miners travelled, on the slope, 
more than two miles below ground. When the rake 
reached the bottom it would pick up men from the previ- 
ous shift and return them to the surface, ten men crammed 
into each trolley, eight trolleys in operation. It didn't take 
long to change shifts at Springhill. 

Maurice Ruddick was in high spirits as he descended. 
His lusty baritone rang out in "The Curse of Old Number 
Two/' It was dedicated, he grinned, to the bumpiest mine 
in the world. The others on his trolley smiled. Good old 
Maurice. A song for everything! 

After twenty minutes of grinding and bumping and fall- 
ing, the rake stopped at the 13,000-foot level. Some of the 
men got out, their lights bobbing weirdly in the darkness. 

Ruddick climbed out here and walked over the uneven 
floor to the top of the 13,000-foot wall. There he found 
his shovel and axe. He had forgotten them the day before, 
but he knew that no one on the other shift would take 
them. Underground there was only one policy: honesty. 

18 Miracle at Springhill 

A man's life could depend on the trustworthiness of his 
fellows. Weaklings didn't last long in the mine. 

The rake continued down to the 13,400-foot level where 
more miners left, to make their way along the narrow gal- 
leries to the face of the coal. At the 13,800-foot level the 
last of the passengers stepped out, and the quitting shift 
began to load. 

Now, 174 men had been transported into the depths of 
the deepest mine in North America. Straight down from 
the pithead to the point where the men worked at the 
lowest level it was 4,400 feet, nearly a mile! The levels 
themselves were reached by gradual inclines that sloped 
more than two miles into the earth. 

Most of the men worked on three adjacent walls, at the 
13,000-, 13,400-, and 13,800-foot levels. About eighty men 
were right at the coal face. Twenty-seven others worked 
at the three levels, moving the coal to the slope. The 
remainder were scattered between the levels and the sur- 
face. They operated the hauling equipment and did the 
necessary maintenance work. 

Charlie Burton worked at 13,000 feet with a com- 
pressed-air chipper pick. He pulled the shiny black coal off 
the face, but first he had to find just the right vein, so the 
coal would fall away easily. Burton had taught many a 
young miner the intricacies of chipping at the coal in just 
the right spot. 

Garnet Clarke worked what the miners called "the tim- 
ber road," at the top of the 13,000-foot wall. He and 
thirty-five-year-old Currie Smith loaded and unloaded the 
hardwood timbers used in shoring up the areas where the 
miners worked. Hie pair loaded the timber into rakes at 

The Curse of Old Number Two 19 

the 12,600-foot level and brought it to the wall at 13,000 
feet. Here, they unloaded it and went back for more. 

Levi Milley was still thinking how well his wife had 
painted the trim on the house when he hung his jacket on 
a pack of timbers at 13,400 feet. Later, he would be work- 
ing at the top of the 13,000 section, but for the next hour, 
his job was to build the packs high to keep the roof from 

Bowman Maddison went down the main slope, crossed 
the back slope, and came up to the 13,000 level. He 
worked there with thirty-five-year-old Caleb Rushton, un- 
loading timbers. 

The whirring of the air fans, the incessant chatter of 
the chipper picks, and the rumbling of the coal-rakes go- 
ing up and down created a weird cacophony. The smell 
of the mine, the hot, wet odor of sweat, coal-dust, and 
dirt; the mustiness, the heaviness; they grew stronger as 
the hours passed. No level escaped. This was the smell of 
men underground. 

Each hour the lights from the men's lamps searched a 
shorter distance than the hour before. The grayish fog 
grew heavier, the tunnels and galleries hotter. The men's 
faces blackened in the pulverized coal. Some men re- 
moved their shirts and worked stripped to the waist, their 
muscled bodies glistening, black with perspiration and 
coal dust. It took a man to stand up to this work. 

No matter how familiar with the mine they were, the 
men stumbled on the uneven floor or tripped against the 
rails that wound along the passageways. They bumped 
against the timbers. Red welts formed on their backs and 
arms, welts that blackened quickly with dust. These welts 

20 Miracle at Springhill 

and raw sores were the marks of the miner, here as all over 
the world. 

At 6:00 P.M., about the same time that their families 
were sitting down to supper above the ground, the men 
stopped work to eat some of their sandwiches. The water 
they had brought down with them was now lukewarm. In 
the mine nothing stayed cold. 

Twenty minutes later, the men got up from the floor 
of the mine, put their lunch cans away, and resumed work. 
They would break again a little later to finish the sand- 
wiches and take a breather. 

Shortly before 7:00 P.M., a minor bump hit at all work- 
ing levels. Coal fragments and dust shook down on the 

Two company officials, observing at the 13,000-foot 
level, took note of the bump, and an overman ( a foreman) 
at 13,800 jotted down in his notebook the time it had oc- 

Maurice Ruddick muttered, "Good old dependable No. 

"Did you feel it?" Bowman Maddison asked his buddy. 

Caleb Rushton nodded. 

When a serious bump occurred, the usual practice was 
to clear the mine for twenty-four hours to give the stresses 
a chance to readjust. No one saw any need for it this time. 
It was only a minor bump. The men continued to work. 


Everyone Came Running 

At 8:06 P.M., a tremendous roar shook every home in 
Springhill. Dishes rattled, windows cracked, and tele- 
phones throughout town went dead. Even ten miles away, 
the ground shuddered. Seismographs at Nova Scotia's Dal- 
housie University in Halifax showed the shock to be of 
the same strength as a small earthquake. 

Kathleen Burton stiffened. She dropped her knitting. 
Her son, Billy, who had been visiting next door, ran into 
the house. 

"Something's happened. Find out what it is," she 
shouted. Her mind raced back to a November day, nearly 
two years earlier, when a similar roar had shaken the 
foundations of the house. 

"Oh, God! Don't let it happen again!" she pleaded. 

Billy raced from the house and down the road. 

Others were already running. 

Garnet Clarke's brother, Harold, was shaking a damper 
on the pot-bellied stove in the living room of his house. 


22 Miracle at Springhill 

"What was that?'* he called to his wife, Lorraine, know- 
ing full-well what it was. 

"It sounded like an automobile crash/' 

They moved quickly to the front door, looked up and 
down the empty road. 

"I'll find out what happened," Clarke said. He put on 
his jacket and left the house. 

Lorraine returned to the living room where Thomas 
Clarke, her father-in-law, was still sitting on the divan. 
They had been watching television. The children from the 
high school in Springhill sang in a music festival from 
Moncton, New Brunswick, which was telecast on station 

Thomas looked up grimly. "I didn't have to run to the 
door. I know what happened." 

Judy Milley ran into the living room. She had been do- 
ing her homework in the kitchen when a glass had tum- 
bled from the rack on the wall to smash on the floor. 

Velda Milley was standing, unmoving, in the center of 
the room. Mother and daughter looked at each other si- 
lently. Behind them, the television set blared the racket of 
the Lucille Ball show, "I Love Lucy." 

Finally, Judy spoke. "Maybe it was a truck going fast 
over the holes in the road." 

But they both knew better. 

Just a few minutes before, Velda had been thinking 
about how pleased her husband would be. She had nearly 
finished painting the trim. 

"I want to be there!" Zora Maddison called to her 

Everyone Came Running 23 

mother. The girl grabbed a jacket from the closet and ran 
from the house. 

Young Alden came running in from next door. He had 
a good idea of what had happened. You did not live in 
Springhill without knowing. 

"Your poor father. Your poor father/* Solange said softly. 

Alden had seen his sister running with the others to- 
ward the mine. He put his arm about his mother's waist. 

'Til stay with you, Mom/' 

Norma Ruddick tried to look unconcerned as she 
checked the nine children in the upstairs bedrooms. Some 
of them were awake, though lying very still. 

"Now go to sleep. Everything's all right," she said, 
although in her heart she knew that everything was all 

Downstairs, two daughters waited for their mother. 
The oldest girl, Colleen, had already left the house. 

Margaret Guthro's first thought was to run to the mine, 
to find Hugh. 

She had put her two children to bed. Dorothy, her 
sister-in-law, was seated at the kitchen table, a large towel 
draped over her shoulders. Margaret was about to start 
giving a home permanent when dishes toppled from the 
shelves and the lights flickered. 

She screamed, "Oh Dot, Dot!" 

In 1956, Hughie and 126 others had been trapped in 
No. 4 mine. For three days and nights she had waited. 
She gave up hope on the third day. That was the day 
Hughie was rescued. 

24 Miracle at Springhill 

"It can't happen again!" she cried. "It can't. Dot, stay 
with the children. I'm going out." 

Margaret threw on a light coat, ran out, and looked 
across to the mine pithead, less than 300 yards from her 
front door. Clouds of black dust almost blotted out the 
yard lights, but she could see men, women, and children 
running from all directions. 

The resident mine manager, George Calder, picked up 
the telephone at his home and called the number at the 
7.,800-foot level, where the rakes stopped on the first leg 
of the trip down the shaft. There was no answer. He ran 
the two blocks to the mine. 

Doctors and nurses at All Saints Hospital felt the build- 
ing shake, even on its perch, high on a hill over the town. 

Hospital Administrator Stanley Tibbetts felt it on the 
second floor. He ran downstairs. Everything seemed to be 
all right in the hospital, so he went outside. People were 
coming from their homes, and Tibbetts picked up snatches 
of conversation. 

"Bump" . . . "No. 2" ... "My God . . ." 

Tibbetts ran back into the hospital and picked up a 
telephone to call the mine. He could not get through. 

Superintendent of Nurses Rebeccah Hargreaves arrived 
at the hospital fifteen minutes after the bump. She and 
Tibbetts held a quick consultation. Some of the patients 
were discharged immediately, several days earlier than 
normal. All available space in the fifty-six-bed hospital 
was made ready, although as yet no one at the hospital 
knew the full extent of damage and injury. 

Everyone Came Running 25 

Mine Manager Calder's office was in turmoil. No one 
knew exactly what had happened, except that there had 
been a terrific bump. 

"I'll try the phone again," he told assistant mine man- 
ager Randolph Carter. 

Carter shook his head. "It's no use. I've been trying." 

Nevertheless, Calder picked up the phone and called 
the 7,800-foot level again. 

This time Overman James McManaman answered. "I 
guess I was knocked out for a few minutes, George. It's 
awful down here. Some of the men are badly hurt." He 
coughed as dust clogged his nostrils and throat. 

"We're coining right down!" Calder shouted into the 
phone. "Any communication below your level?" 

"Everything's knocked out. Everyone down there must 
be dead. It's awful, awful!" 

"We're coming after you," Calder shouted again. "Hang 
on. We're coming." He put the phone back on the hook 
and turned to Carter. "Get me twenty men, fast!" 

Carter ran to the front door. "I need volunteers," he 

Nearly every hand went up. Carter picked twenty men. 
"Get some equipment," he ordered. "We need lights, crow- 
bars, axes, shovels, everything." 

The volunteers sprinted for the supply department. 

Calder, meanwhile, called the 7,800 level again. "Clear 
the slopes," he ordered McManaman. "Stop the coal boxes. 
Take them off and put on the trolleys. We've got to get 
the men out as quickly as we can." He hung up before 
McManaman could answer. 

The twenty volunteers returned to Calder's office ready 
to go. They were "barefaced" men, so called because they 

26 Miracle at Springhill 

went into the depths without gas masks. Their faces were 
not just bare tonight, but white with anxiety. 

Later, the fully equipped rescue teams of Draegermen, 
complete with gas masks, would plunge into the mine. But 
now, there was no time to wait until they could prepare. 

"Let's go," Calder called. The men followed him into 
the throng of anxious friends and relatives who had gath- 
ered to begin the vigil. 

At 8:45 P.M., Calder led the volunteers into the mine. 
They had little difficulty reaching the 7,800 level. Here, 
they were quickly briefed on conditions, as they were 
known. The 13,000 level and 13,400 level were completely 
blocked. Gas was reported seeping into the 13,000-foot 
level. (At least fifty-six men, maybe more, were known to 
have been working there. ) 

"We'll work our way back through the other way/' 
Calder informed his men. The group turned and walked, 
hunched-over, back up the slope. They cut around to the 
13,800-foot level. 

Calder could scarcely believe his eyes. His light showed 
a scene of utter destruction. "The floor just came up and 
smashed into the roof," he whispered to a man behind 
him. "How could anyone survive this? It's probably worse 
where we can't get through." 

The man nodded in grim agreement. "Those poor, poor 

The group continued to work along the shattered level. 
Suddenly, Calder stiffened and began to cough violently. 
He fell to his face and crawled backwards, sliding and 
scratching. The others behind saw and flattened them- 
selves on the floor of the shaft. 

Everyone Came Running 27 

"Gas! Gas!" Calder cried. "Get down!" But the men 
were already down. 

They lay there, panting, and trying to hold their breaths, 
till their lungs ached. Then Calder began to inch ahead. 

"Got to see if it's clearing," he muttered. Hesitantly, he 
took a deeper breath. Then he breathed again. His head 
began to clear and he continued to move forward over 
rocks and splintered timbers. 

The men behind did not move. Their lights all pointed 
on the figure of Calder as he worked slowly ahead of them. 

"It's all right now/' Calder called back. The men began 
to crawl after him. 

A short way down the level, two men were struggling 
through rockfalls and timber, unknown to Calder and his 

Archie Legere and Thomas McManaman had somehow 
survived. Now they were trying to claw their way out. 

Legere, a fifty-five-year-old survivor of the 1956 explo- 
sion, had been at the 13,800-foot level when he decided 
to eat instead of moving up the coal wall. His appetite 
saved his life. 

When the bump came, Legere was munching a sand- 
wich. The concussion knocked him off his feet and down 
the shaft. He could not see through the swirling clouds of 
black dust. His back ached. His knees were scraped. 

Legere remained motionless for a moment, afraid to 
move. His light still worked. He turned his head to the 
right and to the left, but the dust was too thick. Then he 
heard a voice: 

"Get me out of here! For God's sake, help me!" 

Legere crawled toward the voice. Within a few feet, he 

28 Miracle at Springhill 

was joined by Thomas McManaman, who had clawed his 
way out of a coal trap with his bare hands. 

"Someone's hollering for help/' Legere said. "Let's go 
after him." He did not bother to ask how McM'anaman 
was. The fact that he was there was enough. 

"I think the voice came from up ahead," McManaman 

The two men crawled on, painfully and slowly. 

Bill Blekhornut was a few yards ahead, buried up to his 
knees in coal and rock. He could not move. 

Legere and McManaman found a pick and shovel. They 
dug the trapped miner out. 

"You O.K., Bill?" 

"I guess so. My legs are a little stiff. Ill be all right. Go 
on, I'll catch up to you. I want to rest for a minute or so." 

Legere and McManaman continued ahead. They 
stopped when their lights picked up the limp figure of a 
man, pinned against the roof by the wooden props. 

"Let's keep going. We can't help him now," Legere said. 
They moved on. 

They found Clyde Murray, Jr. further up the level. The 
wooden props had him pinned to the ground. He had a 
broken leg and a fractured collarbone, but he was alive. 

Legere and McManaman worked feverishly to help 
Murray. Each time they moved the coal away, or rolled 
a piece of timber off his body, he cried out as the pain 
stabbed through him. 

Finally, when they freed Murray, they left him for the 
rescuers to find. Then they continued to crawl on. 

Suddenly, instead of coming up the wall as it was sup- 
posed to they felt the air rushing down the wall. 

Everyone Came Running 29 

"They've reversed the fans! Those stupid sons of bitches 
will drive the gas in here!" Legere yelled. 

But, as suddenly as it shifted, the air flow changed back 
to normal. 

"That means somebody outside is coming after us!" 
McManaman said jubilantly. 

The pair clawed a larger opening in the rockfall to let 
in more air. They continued on, pausing only to rest and 
catch their breaths. 

George Calder and his volunteers crawled into them, 
grimy face to grimy face. 

Above ground, Lamp Room Foreman Harry Weather- 
bee told his assistant, Alf Cox, "Better stay on through the 
night. We're liable to be here a long time." 

Weatherbee looked at the 173 tags and Percy Rector's 
requisition slip on the board. 

"How many tags will come off that board after this?" 
Weatherbee asked himself softly. 

He thought how minutes, even seconds, could change 
everything in a man's life. He had been at home watching 
television. Then that awful roar came. He knew what it 
was right away. In fifteen minutes he was at his office. 

Shortly, two soot-covered men walked slowly into the 
Lamp Room. Charlie Alderson and Joe McManaman, one 
of three named McManaman who were involved in this 
bump. They were the first men to reach the surface. 

The crowd had followed them from the pithead to the 
Lamp Room. Charlie Alderson and Joe McManaman, one 
nothing. They did not know what had happened. 

Weatherbee had the same question. 

"We don't know, Harry," Alderson replied. "There was 

30 Miracle at Springhill 

a bump. A bad one. There's lots of gas and dust down 
there." He was still shaken by the ordeal, and his voice 
cracked as he spoke. 

Joe McManaman interrupted. "We came through a trap 
door. It was blown off its hinges. We came right through/' 
He shook his head in disbelief. "We just came through 
and here we are/' He paused for a moment, not wanting 
to say the next words. "There's dead men down below/' 

The two ripped off their lamps and handed them to 

Two tags came off the board. 

Now others began coming up under their own power, 
still coughing and choking from dust-filled lungs. They 
had crawled and stumbled over bodies in the darkness, 
but they continued to move upward and upward until 
they came out into the night. 

At 10:10 P.M., Gerald Millard, his face blackened with 
dust, turned in his lamp and took back tag No. 497. He 
went home. 

Eddie Hayes, slightly injured, gave up his lamp. Tag 
No. 553 was removed from the board. 

By eleven, a few more men had straggled to the surface. 
Arthur Noiles was among them. He held no conversation 
with Harry Weatherbee. Frank Brown No. 519 came off 
the board. He, too, was silent. Turning in the tag was a 
reflex action. The men knew they had to turn in their 
lamps when they reached the surface, so they did. 

At 11:00 P.M., Hilton McNutt came out of the pit. He 
reported in, but did not give up his lamp. He had a hot 
cup of coffee and left to join the rescue crews; within an 

Everyone Came Running 31 

hour, he was underground again, facing the death he so 
recently had cheated. 

George Calder and his volunteers were still clawing, 
scratching, and digging. They pushed along the 13,800- 
foot level and tunneled up the wall to 13,400. It was slow 
going, agonizingly slow. The mine still rumbled. Every 
once in a while a shower of coal and rock fell from the 
roof onto the men. Tiny fragments trickled down their 
backs. The men paused at each rumble, fearful that an- 
other gigantic bump was in the making. 

Calder's men found Archie White and Percy Hunter 
at 13,400. The two were half-buried by a rockfall, but the 
volunteers dug them out, and White and Hunter made 
their way to the surface. 

When White reached the Lamp Room, he reclaimed tag 
No. 527. 

"I guess I won't be needing this anymore/' he told 
Weatherbee. But, he stuck the tag ih his pocket. 

He did not even bother to go to the Wash House to 
shower and change his clothes. He walked home. 

Percy Hunter, slowly, reluctantly, walked into the Lamp 
Room and handed Weatherbee his lamp for tag No. 793. 
He kept his eyes away from the tag board, afraid to look. 

Weatherbee handed him his tag, but Hunter kept his 
eyes down on the counter. 

''What about the boys? Any news?" Hunter asked in a 
low voice. The "boys" were his twin brothers, Frank and 
Wilfred. They were inseparable. 

Weatherbee told him that they were still together, 
somewhere in the mine. 

Silently, Percy handed his tag back to Weatherbee. 

32 Miracle at Springhill 

The foreman understood. He handed Hunter his lamp, 
and the miner walked out to join the rescue workers. 

The sky had clouded over now, and an occasional 
shower drenched the crowd at the pithead. Few noticed. 

After more than four gruelling hours underground, 
George Calder and the twenty "barefaced" men came to 
the surface. They were dog-tired, scratched, bruised, and 
heartsick. Calder went directly to his office. The others 
stretched out on benches in the Wash House. They lay 
there, not speaking, breathing deeply. 

Outside, the crowd waiting at the pithead moved back 
respectfully as a line of Draegermen, Nova Scotia's famed 
rescue crews, silently marched by in single file. No one 
tried to talk to them as they disappeared, one by one, 
into the mine entrance. 

Draegerman was a synonym for courage in Nova Scotia. 
The name was derived from that of a German scientist, 
Alexander Bernhard Draeger, who invented a type of 
special equipment for breathing in a mine choked with 
gas. The equipment weighed slightly less than an infan- 
tryman's pack about forty-five pounds. The main duty 
of a Draegerman, a coal miner especially trained in rescue 
work, was to provide safe breathing air in the mine. After 
he made sure of the air, his next job was to take injured 
persons to points of safety and medical help. 

He carried his equipment on his back into the unknown, 
into rockfalls, broken timbers, gas. He crawled across 
jagged chunks of rock and coal, through narrow open- 
ings, scraping his shoulders and cutting his hands and 
knees, to reach men in trouble, men depending on him. 

Normally, five Draegermen worked in a crew, under a 

Everyone Came Running 33 

captain. At one time, there was no age limit, but the rigors 
of the highly specialized work now required that a 
Draegerman be over twenty-one years of age and under 
forty-five. Each man was tested at regular intervals for 
physical fitness and knowledge of the mine. If he failed, 
he was dropped. 

When not on rescue work, the Draegerman was a miner, 
receiving miners' wages. On rescue * work, his pay 
"jumped" to about seventeen dollars a day. That was only 
a few dollars more than his regular pay. A Draegerman's 
value was not paid in dollars. For the seventeen dollars a 
day, he inched his way into a mine, opening gas doors, 
sealing gas in pockets, all the time moving slowly ahead. 
The mask he wore was tight, so that a sudden bump or 
miscalculation could not wrench it free from his face, for 
a single whiff of deadly methane gas was enough. 

Small wonder that the crowd at the pithead moved 
back respectfully when the first line of Draegermen filed 

However, the crowd spoke with awe of George Calder 
and his twenty volunteers, who had gone down into the 
depths before the Draegermen were ready, men who 
had gone without masks. 

Every light in All Saints Hospital was blazing. Already, 
nineteen men had been brought in, and it was just after 

Five of the first men needed only superficial treatment. 
They were released. Fourteen others were kept for ob- 
servation and treatment. There were enough beds, still. 

Anxious relatives crowded the waiting room to see their 
men who had escaped death. Others stood around begging 

34 Miracle at Springhill 

for information about men still not reported. At that 
moment, 155 men were unaccounted for. 

Doctors, nurses, and supplies arrived from Halifax and 
Amherst. No one called for them. They just came. Tele- 
grams poured into the hospital from drug firms all over 
Canada, offering anything that might be needed. Women 
whose husbands were still below ground showed up to 
offer their services as nurses' aides, help that was ac- 

It was decided to open the Armories, around the corner 
from the hospital. If a wholesale rescue developed, the 
additional space would be needed immediately. A squad 
of women was sent to clean, set up beds, roll bandages. 

No one had called the Red Cross or the Salvation Army. 
But they arrived at the scene shortly after the bump oc- 

The chairman of the Springhill Red Cross disaster 
services, forty-four-year-old Edwin McKinnon, could not 
be on hand to direct operations. McKinnon was a miner; 
he was trapped somewhere below with the rest. 

The first Red Cross unit, a team of twenty-one workers, 
arrived at the same time the first group of Draegermen 
entered the pits. A military transport had rushed them 
the 175 miles over the road from Saint John, New Bruns- 
wick. They immediately set up an emergency feeding 
station near the pithead. 

The Salvation Army hastily threw up three huge tents 
nearby, two of them tents that had been used in 1956. 
Long wooden tables were brought in from the Miners* 
Hall and from the Canadian Legion building. Residents 
of the town carried chairs from their homes. Pot-bellied 

Everyone Came Running 35 

stoves were put in the tents, their pipes extending through 
the top flaps. 

Inside, the tents gradually grew warmer. But not so 
warm that those who waited in the early morning hours 
could refrain from huddling close while they continued 
their vigil. 


T^carly a Mile Below 

Levi Milley had been working at the 13,000-foot level 
when the bump hit, and he was tossed like a sack of 
feathers into the air. He somersaulted three times, 
bounced off the roof of the mine and dropped to the floor 
with a sickening thud. Dust swirled in great clouds around 
him. It burned his eyes, clogged his nostrils, and seared 
his lungs. He lay there panting in the darkness. The black 
walls had closed in. The roof had come down, the floor 
had risen, so that only three feet of space was left. In this 
small section, for some reason, the floor had not smashed 
into the roof. As Milley lay there, he could hear groaning 
and screaming all about him. Some cries seemed to be 
coming from a great distance away. His head pounded, 
and there was an awful ringing in his ears. 

Was this what it was like to be dead? 

The far-off cries died out. For several terrifying mo- 
ments Milley could hear only the sound of falling debris 
and rock and coal rolling through the shaft. And only 


Nearly a Mile Below 37 

that morning he had been worried about his chickens and 
the trim on his house. . . . 

Milley was shocked to sudden attention by someone 
calling nearby. 

"My damn leg is caught. Someone take the stone off my 
leg. Somebody help. . . ." 

Milley's cap light was out but he reached up and tried 
the switch. It worked and cast a faint light on the chaos 
around him. He crawled three feet to his left, in the direc- 
tion of the cry. His light flashed into a miner's face, a 
face so blackened by dust that he did not recognize it. 

"Who is it?" Milley asked, staring at the miner, whose 
helmet, lamp out, was pushed down over his eyes. 

"Caleb Rushton. Can you get my leg free? I can't move 

"Hold on, 111 give you a hand." Milley leaned over 
and gave the stone a hard shove. It rolled off Rushton's 

Rushton wriggled his leg, slowly. It did not seem to be 
broken, but it was painful to move. "Thanks, whoever 
you are." 

"Levi Milley." 

"Thanks, Levi." 

"That's all right. Think you can come with me?" 

"I'm sure as hell not gonna stay here." 

"Then let's go." 

The two men made their way on hands and knees 
through the shattered shaft. Rushton lighted his lamp. 
Their lights stabbed through the darkness, to spotlight the 
lifeless forms of men lying grotesquely on the floor or 
smashed against the roof. Tools and shattered helmets 
and lamps were scattered everywhere. But everywhere 

38 Miracle at Springhill 

it was silent, the silence of death. Then, one of the bodies 
stirred and groaned. The two men, without speaking, 
made their way to the form. 

"It's Joe McDonald," whispered Rushton. 

The miner was lying on his back, one leg twisted under 
him. He looked up. "Who's there?" he called. 

"Levi. Levi Milley and Caleb Rushton." 

"For God's sake, help me. It's my leg!" 

"Take it easy. We'll help you," whispered Rushton. 

Milley and Rushton worked to free McDonald's leg. 
It was not caught or pinned by anything. It was twisted 
under his body. When they straightened it, McDonald 
let out a searing cry of pain. Milley reached under the 
leg, shuddered, and quickly withdrew his hand. He had 
touched wet, slippery bone that protruded through the 
skin at the hip. 

"Jesus," Milley muttered. 

"For God's sake don't leave me," McDonald pleaded. 

"We won't," Milley assured him. "We're right here." 

They stayed with McDonald for several minutes, until 
he dropped off into unconsciousness. 

Milley and Rushton crawled slowly, in circles. They 
bumped into bodies, some of them dead but still warm. 
A shower of stones rattled down a slope a few feet away. 
A form sliding down the incline had loosened the debris. 
It was Teddy Michniak, who had painfully pulled himself 
along toward the voices he heard. Michniak's shoulder 
was broken, his wrist hung limp from his left arm. But he 
was alive. 

The bump knocked Bowman Maddison off his feet. A 
flying chunk of coal severed the cord from his battery to 

Nearly a Mile Below 39 

his lamp, and he lay on the floor in darkness, not daring to 
move. For several minutes the miner remained still, 
breathing heavily and waiting for something else to hap- 
pen. Finally he stretched out one arm, then the other. 
There was no pain. Slowly, he twisted his body at the 
waist. There was still no pain. Then his right leg. His 
left. He struggled to his knees and then to his feet, 
smashing his head into the roof. He fell back to the 
ground, remained there for a moment, and pulled himself 
back to his knees. "Anybody there?" he called. The sound 
of his own voice startled him. 

Ahead, he saw lights that barely pierced the swirling 
dust, and he moved toward them in the darkness. He 
rose from his knees, gently, until the top of his helmet 
scraped against the roof. There was not room to stand 
up straight, but crouched, he could take one cautious step 
after another. "Who's there?" he called toward the lights. 

The mine still rumbled. Great chunks of rock and coal 
slid down from the walls and came to a stop at his feet. 
Through the noise he heard, "Levi Milley." Then, "Caleb 
Rushton. Who are you?" 

"Bowman Maddison," he shouted back. He continued 
to move toward the lights until he reached the others. 

"There's more alive back there," Milley said. "Joe Mc- 
Donald is hurt. I think his hip is busted. I felt his bone 
sticking out. Teddy Michniak is banged up. Got some 
broken bones." He said it matter-of-factly. That they had 
broken bones and injuries did not matter so much as that 
they were alive. 

"Let's look around," Maddison said. "Maybe we can 
find some others. I haven't got a light. The cord's cut." 

40 Miracle at Springhill 

"You get in the middle," Milley said. Til lead the 
way. Caleb will come up behind/' 

The three miners had gone no more than ten feet when 
they crawled into Larry Leadbetter. He was lying on the 
floor, waiting. He had heard the voices but could not be- 
lieve they were real. He did not call. He simply waited. 
When the men arrived, Leadbetter sat up. The sight of 
the others was too much for him. 

"My God! Oh my God!" he cried. "It was awful. Don't 
leave me alone here! Please. I don't want to die. I'm 
only twenty-two. I've got a wife and a kid." He began to 

"None of us want to die, dammit! None of us," Mad- 
dison growled. "And we won't leave you alone. Do you 
hear me? Listen to me! We're all here together. Under- 
stand? We're all here together!" Maddison was shouting 

Milley patted Maddison on the shoulder. "Take it easy. 
He's only young and he's scared like all of us." 

"Yuh ? you're right," Maddison agreed. He turned to 
Leadbetter. "I'm sorry I yelled at you. I'm just as scared 
as you are." 

The group fell silent. They heard other voices, some 
crying faintly for help, others praying. In a while, the 
voices stopped. 

For a while, they heard scratching farther down the 
shaft Then that sound stopped, too. Someone had died 
in the darkness, unable to claw his way out from under 
the torus of coal and rock. 

"Who else is here?" Maddison finally called, not ex- 
pecting an answer from anyone outside his little group. 

Nearly a Mile Below 41 

"Say your names if you can/' Milley added. "Ill start 
it. Levi Milley/' 

"Bowman Maddison." 

"Caleb Rushton." 

"Joe McDonald/' The voice was weak. 

"Teddy Michniak." The voice was strong. 

"Larry Leadbetter." The sobbing had stopped. 

For a moment there was silence. Then, out of the dark- 
ness, as the dust began to settle, other lights shone 

"Gorley Kempt. I'm all right/' 

"Lowther, Eldred Lowther/' 

"Joe Holloway." 

"Harold Brine." 

"Wilfred Hunter. And my leg hurts/' 

"Hughie Gutliro." 

The men squatted on the ground, close together. Their 
lights flashed in all directions and cast eerie shadows on 
the walls. 

Milley counted. "Thank God. There's twelve of us. 
Anyone else?" he called as loud as he could. His voice 
bounced off the walls and echoed back to him. That was 
all. The mine was quiet. Gone were the cries and groans of 
dying men. Gone were the last desperate scratchings of 
men buried alive. 

"We can't stand up here," Maddison warned the others, 
remembering how he had bumped his head. "There's 
only about three feet of space above us. Reach up and 
see." He reached up to prove his point. His hand ran along 
the roof. 

"Joe McDonald can't move," Milley announced. "I think 
his leg's busted. Michniak's hurt, too." 

42 Miracle at Springhill 

"It was one son of a bitch of a bump/' a voice said 
slowly, accenting each word. A light was flickering against 
the roof. "Just ta ke a look at those boxes. They're smashed 
up solid/' 

The men saw the flattened coal boxes. No one said 
anything about the bodies flattened with them. 

It was too much for young Leadbetter. "Oh God! Let's 
get out of here!" He began to rise. Hands reached out and 
pushed him back to the floor. "My grandfather died in 
this mine before I was born," he groaned. "Now, it's my 

"Let's go in threes/' Maddison said, ignoring Lead- 
better. "Well look around a bit, but be damn careful of 

Rushton, Milley, and Maddison moved away together, 
down towards the 13,400-foot wall. They bumped into 
more bodies in the darkness. They stopped, smelled for 
gas, moved on again slowly. 

"This is as far as we can go. There's no way out in 
this direction." Maddison was panting from the exertion 
of picking his way over the debris in the cramped space. 
"We'd better go back and all stay in one place." 

The three retraced their way. They had gone only about 
twenty-eight feet. 

The others had already returned from their explorations 
unable to find a way out of the tomb, a space that meas- 
ured forty-feet long and sixteen-feet wide. 

The twelve men huddled together, waiting, but they 
did not know for what. 

Finally, Maddison asked, "How are we fixed for water 
and food?" 

Nearly a Mile Below 43 

"My lunch can is at the top of the section. Well never 
get it now/' Milley answered. 

"WeVe got to have food and water," Maddison said. 

Wilfred Hunter spoke up. "Here's a two-quart can. It's 
nearly full." He held it out to Maddison. "God only 
knows who it belonged to, but he won't be needing it any 


"We've all got to look around. There must be some 
lunch boxes," Maddison said. 

The men moved away along the mine floor, their lights 
poking into every corner. For half an hour they crawled 
about and searched. 

Gorley Kempt came back with two deviled ham sand- 
wiches. The others had not been able to find any food. 

"What've we got?" Maddison asked, when the group 
assembled once again. 

"Almost two quarts of water and a couple of sand- 
wiches," Milley said. "That'll keep up going for a while, 
but we got to ration everything. Who's got something to 
divide the water?" 

Eldred Lowther, a miner for twenty-eight years, had 
come back with an empty aspirin bottle. "We could use 
this," he said. He handed the bottle to Maddison, who put 
it beside the water can. 

"That makes nearly two quarts of water, two sand- 
wiches, and an aspirin bottle. We'll manage for a while," 
Maddison said. He looked over to Caleb Rushton. "What 
the hell time is it?" 

"Ten minutes to eleven," Rushton said, glancing at his 
luminous watch. 

That was enough to set Leadbetter off again. "Almost 
three hours and there's no sign of anyone coming to get 

44 Miracle at Springhill 

us. We'll never get out of here/' His voice began to rise. 
"We'll die in here! They'll never get to us!" He was shout- 
ing, but the others ignored him. 

"We've got to keep looking for a way out," Milley said. 
"McDonald and Michniak will stay together. They're 
hurt. Bowsie! Bowsie Maddison! Let's see what we can 

"O.K.," Maddison replied. "Let's go." The two men 
crawled away again. 

Wilfred Hunter, hunched and limping, stumbled off 
in the opposite direction. 

In twenty minutes they were all back. There was no 
way out. They rested. The exertion of searching the shaft 
had taxed their strength. 

Wilfred Hunter had stretched out on the ground, his 
shoes off, his head on a timber. When he felt strong 
enough to speak, he said simply, "I found my twin brother. 
I was crawling along and saw a body dangling from the 
ceiling. It was hard to tell who it was at first, but I know 
it was Frank. I reached up and touched him. He was dead 
but he was still warm. I tugged at his leg but I couldn't 
pull him off the ceiling. I told Frank I was sorry, very 
sorry it happened. I said I'd probably be joining him soon. 
We were always together. Even though I couldn't see his 
face, I knew it was Frank." 

The men listened in silence. 

"We're probably the only ones left in this whole damn 
mine/' Maddison said, breaking the feeling Hunter's story 
had aroused in the men. "Why only us?" he asked. 

Caleb Rushton spoke up. He felt he could tell the men. 
He was only thirty-five, but he had spent many of those 
years singing in the choir at the Anglican Church. "God 

Nearly a Mile Below 45 

meant it that way. Only He can answer why/' Then 
Rushton began to sing softly, almost to himself. 

I fancy I stood by the shore one day, 

Of the beautiful murmuring sea; 

I saw the great crowds as they thronged the way 

Of the Stranger of Galilee. 

Maddison joined Rushton first, then others joined in, 
humming softly. For the moment, Joe McDonald and 
Teddy Michniak forgot their pain. The men were seeking 
an answer to Maddison's question, "Why only us?" 

I saw how the man who was blind from birth, 
In a moment was made to see; 
The lame were made whole by the matchless skill, 
Of the Stranger of Galilee. 

Twelve men sang together, Catholic and Protestant 
alike. Miners, who daily live close to death, live close 
to God. 

And I felt I would love Him forever, 
So gracious and tender was He! 
I claimed Him that day as my Saviour, 
This Stranger of Galilee. 

Bowman Maddison had no way of knowing when he 
asked, "Why only us?" that not four hundred feet away 
at the 13,000-foot wall, but separated by a mass of stone 
and coal and timber, other men were alive. They, too, 
had come together out of the twisted and torn passage- 

Garnet Clarke had been unloading props near the 
13,000-foot wall with his buddies, Currie Smith and Herb 

46 Miracle at Springhill 

Pepperdine. Clarke was heaved into the air, and came 
down on top of Pepperdine, knocking the breath from 
both. Smith was thrown only to his knees. 

Clarke rolled away from Pepperdine and the two men 
lay there in the dust, catching their breaths. 

"You O.K.?" Clarke asked. 

*I think so," Pepperdine answered. 

"Where are you, Currie?" Clarke yelled over the noise 
of the heaving mine. It had all happened so fast that the 
thought never occurred to him that someone might have 
been killed. He was alive, and it seemed reasonable that 
everyone else was, too. 

His light still burned, and he turned in all directions. 
Suddenly, in what for him was an awful moment, he saw 
the death and destruction. Twisted rails. Smashed boxes. 
Bodies that twitched and then lay still. 

Currie Smith called. 'Tin down here." 

Clarke, searching in the direction of the voice, made 
out the faint glimmer of a light through the haze. He 
crouched and moved cautiously along the wall. Pepper- 
dine scrambled to his knees, then to his feet. They found 
Smith a little more than ten feet away. He was not hurt. 

"Doug Jewkes is buried," Smith said. "Help me get him 


Jewkes was covered by coal and rock up to his waist, 
but he spoke calmly. "Give us a hand, fellows." 

The three men pulled away debris and dug Jewkes out 
of his trap. It was 8:45 P.M. 

Maurice Ruddick, father of twelve children, came down 
the wall carefully and bumped into Clarke and Smith 
and Pepperdine and Jewkes at 9:00 P.M. 

Nearly a Mile Below 47 

When the bump hit, Ruddick could not move. Coal 
from the roof poured down on him. It smashed onto his 
helmet and put out his light. It buried him to the waist. 
Amid the dust and noise, The Singing Miner reached up 
and tried his lamp switch. His light played on the scene 
before him. "Oh, my God!" he muttered, offering a silent 

He could move his arms. "Now, if only my legs aren't 
gone/' he whispered. He dug around his waist, pushing 
great lumps of coal away from his body. Beads of perspira- 
tion stood out on his forehead. Little by little he moved 
away the coal until his waist was free. He bent forward 
and pushed more chunks aside until he was clear to his 
knees. Finally he was free. For a moment he dared not 
move. Then he tried a halting step forward. Then another. 
The top of his helmet scratched the roof. He took four 
more steps, then collapsed in a heap. The foul air and 
the exhaustion were too much. 

Then a call brought him back to consciousness. Ruddick 
looked at his watch, the one with the luminous dial that 
Norma had given him. It was twenty minutes to nine. 
"For Christ's sake, someone help me!" 

Watching his footing, Ruddick worked his way down 
the wall toward the sound. He heard the voice again. 

"Get me out of here! My arm's caught. I can't move. 
It's terrible. Terrible." The man was sobbing. 

It took Ruddick twenty minutes to move through the 
debris. Then he met the others. They were trying to free 
Percy Rector, whose right elbow was jammed tight in 
a shattered wood pack. 

Percy Rector just that afternoon feared he had jinxed 

48 Miracle at Springhill 

himself when he forgot the brass tag for his lamp! He 
was imploring the others to free him from the vise. 

Pepperdine inched away from the group. 

"Where are you going?" Ruddick whispered. 

Til be right back." 

Ruddick watched him make his way down the wall. 
The rangy miner stooped low, moved with short, careful 
steps. Ruddick saw him stop a few feet away and break 
off the blade of a saw that was caught between two 
timbers. Pepperdine could not pull out the handle, so he 
brought back the saw blade, holding it behind him. 

Ruddick shuffled over to Pepperdine so Rector could 
not hear. "I hope we don't have to use that," he said 

"I got it just in case. It'll probably be too dangerous. 
The shock might kill him. But there's no other way to get 
him loose." 

Rector had stopped his pleading. He only groaned, now. 
He could not stand, even bent over. The slightest move- 
ment tugged the arm, sending knives of pain stabbing 
through him. 

At 9:30 P.M., a body rolled down the slope near the 
men, bringing a thick cloud of choking dust. 

"I saw your lights but I couldn't move. Gas knocked me 
out." It was Frank Hunter, Wilfred's twin brother, not 
hanging dead from the ceiling as his brother thought, 
but now struggling to his knees and wiping dirt from 
his face. He looked carefully into the faces of the other 
men, glad he was not alone. 

"How many of us here now?" Garnet Clarke asked. 
Tve got a piece of chalk in my pocket. Call your names 
and 111 write them on the timbers." 

Nearly a Mile Below 49 

Somebody spoke, but no one asked who it was. The 
words were soft. "Sure, put them down good and clear 
and save the chalk. We can put the time the gas kills us 
beside our names. If they ever find us they'll know how 
long we lived." 

Clarke ignored the voice. "I'm writing my name now," 
he said, and neatly lettered it on a timber. 

"Put down Frank Hunter/' the twin said. "My family 
should know what time I died. Wilfred is probably gone 

"Put down Maurice Ruddick, and I don't give a damn 
what you guys say. I ain't gonna die and neither are you/' 

"Doug Jewkes," came another voice. 

Clarke lettered the name. 


"Currie Smith." 

"That makes six of us," Hunter said. 

"Hey, don't forget Percy," Ruddick 'called. 

Rector could not talk. The pain was too great even 
for the exertion of calling out his name. 

Clarke added Rector's name to the chalk list. "That 
makes seven." 

"Yeah, lucky seven," Ruddick said bitterly. Then he 
paused and sniffed the air. He sniffed again. "God damn 
it," he screamed. "Gas!" He lay back as if accepting death, 
eyes closed. The others slowly crumpled to the ground. 
Rector's head dropped. He could not fall. 

In a moment the area was quiet. It was 10:00 P.M. But 
at 10:05, fresh air began to drift up the wall. One by one 
the men regained consciousness. "It's clearing," Clarke 
said, as if the others did not know it. 

50 Miracle at Springhill 

"The gas is gonna get us sooner or later," Pepperdine 
whispered. "Well all die/' 

The men closed their eyes, breathed deeply, and tried 
to rest. They could not relax. Death was all around, and 
each wondered if he would ever see daylight again. No 
one could sleep. Percy Rector's groans kept them on edge. 
There was nothing they could do except listen. 

At 10:30, Ruddick had enough of trying to relax. "I'm 
going to work my way up the timber road toward the 
12,600," he announced. Bent over, so that his hands could 
touch the ground, he left to seek a way out. 

"Dammit," he cursed to himself, after he had gone only 
forty feet. "The road's right up to the roof." He dropped 
to his knees and then to his stomach and pulled himself 
along, looking for an opening in the mass of stone. His 
arms ached. His elbows were almost raw from dragging 
himself over the jagged ground. His hands were cut and 
black dust filled the wounds. He was able to wedge 
through a narrow opening but could go no more than 
twenty feet before he found the way blocked. The miner 
pushed himself backwards. He could not turn around 
in the coffin-like confine. It took him half an hour to re- 
trace the sixty feet to the others. 

They were silent. They knew that if he had found a 
way out he would have shouted. 

Suddenly, Ruddick started. "Why the hell didn't I 
think of it before?" he asked. "I've got a whole box of 
aspirins in my pocket. Who else has any?" 

The men searched their pockets and the few lunch 
cans that were left. They found a total of five aspirins and 
handed them to Ruddick. 

"Hold on, Perce," Ruddick said as he crawled over to 

Nearly a Mile Below 51 

the trapped man. "Here, try these. They'll help the pain/' 
He handed Rector a dozen aspirins and Rector reached 
out for them with his good hand. He could not hold all 
twelve and a few rolled out of his grasp, blackening as 
they rolled in the dust. 

"Never mind/' Ruddick assured him. "There's more. 
Now put a couple at a time in your mouth." 

Rector placed three aspirins carefully on his tongue. 
Ruddick held his water can to Rector's lips and raised 
it. "Wash them down good." Rector gagged as the aspirins 
went down. He pushed the water can away and put three 
more aspirins in his mouth. Again, Ruddick lifted the 
water can and Rector drank a great gulp. Once more he 
pushed away the water and put the remaining tablets in 
his mouth. 

"Take a good deep drink," Ruddick said, lifting the 
can to Rector's lips. 

At 11:30, the aspirins began to work. Rector dozed off, 
temporarily relieved of the pain. 

"We could all do with some water and something to 
eat," Ruddick said after a while. There was no argument. 
The men were hungry and their throats burned. 

Each man, in turn, took a bite from a sandwich, then 
washed it down with the warm water. Nothing stayed 
cool in the mine, where the temperature was always close 
to eighty degrees, always hot and always stuffy. 

"Nothing we can do but wait," Clarke said. 

"Well, we can talk, can't we? This quiet is driving me 
nuts," Doug Jewkes said. "That'll pass the time. Only, 
we're not going any place. I think the bump hit in all 
the walls." 

"If it did, that's it. We've had it," Ruddick answered. 

52 Miracle at Springhill 

"They'll seal us in. They can't get to us and they probably 
think everyone's dead anyhow/' 

"Don't be foolish/' Clarke said. "Maybe the bump only 
hit in this section. Maybe everyone else is out of it. 
Maybe we're the only ones that can't get out. Maybe 
they're coming close to us right now." 

"Maybe, maybe, maybe. You're full of maybes," Jewkes 
interrupted. "You don't hear anyone digging for us, do 

Ruddick looked toward Clarke. "You could be right," 
he agreed. "I sure hope so." He paused for a moment, still 
looking at Clarke. "The good Lord let us live through the 
bump. He'll let us live to be rescued." 

The men were silent again. They switched off their 
lamps to save the batteries. Now the darkness was over- 

"What time is it?" someone asked. 

Ruddick looked at his watch. The hands were together. 
"Midnight," he called. "Why?" 

"Nothing," was the reply. "Just wanted to know." 

Another voice. "I don't think they're gonna come." 

An answer in the darkness. "The good Lord let us live. 
They'll come." 

Young Garnet Clarke grew nervous, just sitting and 
waiting, doing nothing but waiting. "Let's look around for 
some water cans and lunch boxes/' he suggested. 

Ruddick answered immediately. "Try the other side. 
There's nothing toward the 12,600." He heard Clarke 
shuffle to his feet. Then he saw the helmet light flash 
on. "Wait," he called to Clarke. "I'll go with you." He 
pulled himself to his feet. 

The two miners moved together in the shaft, climbing 

Nearly a Mile Below 53 

over bodies, bumping into bodies. They searched around 
the dead for water and food. 

"Here's a can/' Clarke called. 

"I've already found a couple/' Ruddick answered 
hoarsely, a few feet away. 

They continued slowly, down the waste side of the wall 
where it was mostly dirt and rock, a wall they called a 
waste, because there was little coal on it. At 175 feet 
they stopped. They could go no farther. 

"The end of the line/' Ruddick said. "Might as well go 
back/' They returned to the others. 

"How did we make out?" Ruddick asked, as he gently 
deposited his treasure on the ground. 

"Let's see," answered Clarke. "There's seven water 
cans." He shook each one gently. "There's only a little 
bit in them," he said. "And we've got a couple of lunch 
boxes." He opened them and poked his hand in each. 
"Only a few pieces of broken sandwiches." 

"Better than nothing." 

Ruddick piled the cans and boxes in a corner. He was 
tired. He lay back and closed his eyes. It felt good to 
shut them. It helped keep out the darkness. 

His mind was drifting. His head spun. For the first 
time since the bump, Ruddick thought of home. Things 
had happened so quickly, and his world had crashed 
down on him with such terrifying suddenness, that he had 
forgotten until now. 

. . . Norma . . . "Thank God IVe got the insurance. 
She'll be able to get by." He felt like crying, just thinking 
about it. It was so final, so much the end of everything. He 
had increased the policy only a month ago. "I didn't think 
she'd collect it so quick." He tried to recall pictures of his 

54 Miracle at Springhill 

twelve children. They would not come. He tried to re- 
member all their names. He could not. "The baby and the 
three smaller ones/' he thought, "won't even remember 
me when they grow up/' He began to sing softly to him- 
self: "I come to the Lord in prayer . . /' 

"What was that?" someone asked, startled. 

"Just me, singing/' Ruddick answered. 

"Let's all hear it, Maurice." 

Ruddick raised his voice: 

I come to the Lord in prayer, 

Though my path is narrow, 

I'm not alone, 

For I know that my Saviour tarries near , . . 

His voice trailed off. "I don't feel much like singing," 
he apologized. 

Silence closed again. 

Frank Hunter crawled to his knees. One leg pained 
him. He switched on his light but everyone looked alike, 
their faces black with dust. "I'm gonna take another look 

"Better stay put," Ruddick said. "There's nothing either 
way. You'll only use up your battery and your strength. 
Try to rest/' 

"I can't. I keep thinking about my brothers. They're 
probably both dead." 

But the brothers were alive. 

At that same moment-2:00 A.M. of the second day- 
Percy Hunter was picking through a clogged shaft in 
search of bodies. With a rescue crew of "barefaced" men, 

Nearly a Mile Below 55 

Percy, who so recently had escaped from the 13,400-foot 
level, was searching for his brothers. 

Wilfred Hunter was with the eleven survivors of the 
13,000-foot level, four hundred feet away from his twin, 
Frank. But they were separated by a wall of stone and 
timber and coal. And Wilfred was sure he had seen and 
touched Frank's dead body, crushed into the roof. 


There Is N[o Hope 

In the early morning of Friday, October 24, more Draeger- 
men arrived from the towns of Stellarton, Sydney Mines, 
and New Glasgow, where the company also operated 
mines; they reported to the Draeger House and were 
assigned their shifts. 

Now giant floodlights played on the pithead. The fire 
department had set up emergency lighting. Civil defense 
units brought in more lights and loudspeakers. Ambu- 
lances from Saint John and Amherst lined up on the 
grounds. Panel trucks belonging to local merchants were 
pressed into service as ambulances, in case a wholesale 
rescue operation developed. The Royal Canadian Air 
Force sent a helicopter from Halifax with blood supplies 
for the hospital. Soldiers arrived in trucks to help the 
local police patrol the streets and keep order at the 
mine. But, there was no need to keep order at the mine. 


There Is No Hope 57 

The people knew what had to be done. Every action, 
word, and thought was directed at only one objective: 

Kathleen Burton fidgeted with the pair of socks she 
was knitting for the Red Cross. Her sister-in-law, Mrs. 
Katharine Beaton, had arrived shortly after 2:00 A.M. 
The oldest Burton boy, Billy, was at the pithead, waiting. 
Young Gary sat up, listening to radio reports of the bump, 
meager as they were. 

"Don't worry, Kay. Charlie did it before and hell do it 
again. He'll lead out another bunch of men. Just wait and 
see/' Mrs. Beaton tried to reassure her sister-in-law. 

Kay managed a weak smile. She did not answer. 

"That's right, Mom. Don't worry," Gary said. "Dad'll 
be all right. Please don't worry." 

"I can't go to the pithead this time. I just can't," Kay 
whispered. "That waiting there. Just waiting and not 

"No one is asking you to go. You're better off here at 
home. When there's news, they'll let you know." Mrs. 
Beaton put her hand on the folded hands of her sister- 
in-law and squeezed. 

The women looked at each other for a long time. The 
same thought ran through their minds. Would they ever 
see the man they loved alive again? 

At 2:30 Judy Milley remembered something, and told 
her mother. "When Daddy said 'Goodbye' to me at school 
yesterday, it made me feel funny." The young girl could 
not explain. "Mom, I'm going down there. I just can't 
stay home!" 

58 Miracle at Springhill 

Velda Milley knew her daughter's anguish. She wished 
she could go to the pithead and wait, to be that much 
closer to Levi. But waiting, watching the rescue crews, 
was more than she could take. If bad news was to come, 
she would much rather hear it at home. 

"All right, dear. Go ahead/' Velda could not tell her 
daughter to remain at home. The child had a right to be 
there. "Take something warm and be careful/' she said. 
"Don't get in anyone's way, and please, please, be home 


"I will, Mom," the girl said confidently. "And I'll bring 
home some good news." 

Judy put on a warm coat and tied a kerchief about 
her head. She walked into the kitchen, past the school 
books still open on the oval table, and out the back door. 

Her mother stood in the doorway, watching her dis- 
appear into the darkness. 

At 2:45, the lights in Bowman Maddison's home were 
still on. Alden sat by his mother, listening to the radio 
reports. The set was turned down low so as not to awaken 
the baby asleep upstairs. 

The twelve-year-old boy put his arm around his 
mother's waist and gave her a hug. "Zora will be home 
soon," he said. "She'll bring us good news." Another child 
reassuring his parent with a promise of good news. A 
child, yet now an adult, too, as were so many other chil- 
dren of Springhill suddenly. 

Maddison's daughter had raced from the house minutes 
after the bump. She had not returned, and now Solange 
worried about this too. 

Alden again made an effort to comfort his mother. 

There Is No Hope 59 

"God wouldn't give you the new baby and take Daddy 
away from us, would he?" 

Garnet Clarke's brother, Harold, returned home from 
the pithead, his face flushed with anxiety. At 3:00 A.M., 
his family was still awake. 

"There was no use waiting there/' he told his wife. 
"I saw Garnie's car parked in the lot," he added, choking 
back a catch in his voice. "I could have driven it home 
with my set of keys, but I just couldn't. I felt as if it would 
be too final/' 

Lorraine looked at her husband and then at her father- 
in-law. She spoke to her husband. "Leave the car there. 
He'll be up soon and drive it home himself." 

She did not believe it. She did not know what to believe 
but she had to say something encouraging. 

Thomas Clarke got up from the couch and walked to 
the closet iri the hallway. 

"Where you going, Dad?" Harold asked. 

"Leave him alone," Lorraine whispered to her husband. 

The sixty-seven-year-old Clarke took out his heavy 
coat and silently put it on. He found his tweed cap and, 
holding it in his hand, turned. "We're not all here. I'm 
going down there and wait for my other son." 

He left the house, to walk more than a mile to the mine. 

Twelve-year-old Colleen Ruddick waited at the pit- 
head. There was no news to bring home to her mother. 
Her father, Maurice, was still somewhere in the ground. 

Standing by herself at 3:30 in the morning, the young 
girl had watched the lucky ones come to the surface. She 
knew that in the hours immediately following the bump, 

60 Miracle at Springhill 

many men had made their own way to the surface. She 
knew, too, by listening to the people talk, that some men 
had escaped alive from the 13,400-foot level She saw 
ambulances leaving, carrying rescued men to be examined 
at All Saints Hospital. 

Seventy men in all had made the surface by 3:00 A.M. 
Since that time no one had been brought up. The girl 
began to sob quietly to herself. She turned from the glare 
of the searchlights. She did not want anyone to see her 
crying; she was the oldest of the twelve children and she 
should not cry. 

A small arm circled her waist as she stood there in the 
drizzle, and the girl jumped. It was her sister, Sylvia. 

"Mama wants me to stay here with you/' 

The two girls waited side by side for their father. 

Just before dawn, Margaret Guthro rubbed her red- 
rimmed eyes and looked up at the sky. The sun would 
not shine today, she thought. 

Hugh Guthro's wife looked about her at the others 
standing huddled in the drizzle, not moving, scarcely 
breathing. The black ground was muddy and turning to a 
sickly ooze. The other women's shoes were splattered. 
She did not bother to look at her own. She watched a line 
of Draegermen trudging slowly, silently, out of the mine. 
Their faces were black with dirt and coal dust. 

Margaret moved forward a step with the other women. 
All wanted to question the Draegermen. They wanted to 
find out about their men. Did the rescue crews see them? 
Was there a chance? But no one spoke. The line of 
Draegermen passed them by, each man looking straight 

There Is No Hope 61 

"I'd better go home. I'm so very tired. The children will 
be looking for me/' Margaret Guthro said to herself. 

She knew that her sister-in-law, Dot, had been awake 
all the night, watching over Linda and Jerry. 

She turned away from the scene and walked slowly 
down the muddy road for home. 

Dawn. A Draegerman rested in the Wash House. He 
had eaten a sandwich and gulped down a steaming con- 
tainer of coffee. The exhausted man stretched out on a 
cot, fully clothed, and stared up at the ceiling. The man 
on the cot next to him also stared. Then, he spoke. 

"You know, there just can't be any more alive in there. 
Those guys who got out at the beginning . . . they were 
sure lucky. Next time we go back down it'll be just for 

The second man did not answer. He had fallen asleep. 

At 5:30, Bill Totten, one of the "lucky ones" who had 
escaped during the first hours after the bump, held an 
informal press conference in the Wash House. Totten, a 
miner for twenty-seven years, had made it safely to the 
surface from the 13,400-foot level and then immediately 
plunged back into the depths to help look for his buddies. 
Now, he was back on the surface. 

"You can't imagine what it's like down there," he told 
newspaper people from all parts of Canada and the 
United States. "Crawling through a little hole just big 
enough to pass through. Every time there's a rumble, 
or a stone falls, you get ready for another bump. That 
would finish us. The heat and the smell . . . digging out 
those bodies. It's awful. . . ." 

62 Miracle at Springhill 

Totten was interrupted by Stan Pashkoski, another 
rescue worker. "I only wish they would let one newspaper- 
man go into the mine. Then he could tell the whole out- 
side world what it's like down there/' He paused to catch 
his breath. 

"There's no room down there. I have cuts all up my arm 
from scraping it on the rock/' He pulled up his sleeve to 
show the cuts covered with black dust. 

"We crawl along in a line, about a dozen of us. It takes 
a long time, sometimes a whole shift of eight hours, to 
go a couple of feet." 

The reporters took hasty notes. No one interrupted. 
They let the miner get it off his chest. 

"I may be crazy," Pashkoski continued, "but I still have 
hopes there will be somebody alive down on the 13,000- 
foot wall. The way I feel about it is that if it's like the 
13,400 and the 13,800 there might be four or five fellows 
alive at one end of the wall. 

"Anytime now, somebody might drive his shovel in 
and find an opening with men in it. But then we might 
come up against solid rock, too." The miner had finished 
talking. There was silence. 

At 5:40 P.M. at the pithead, word came from below 
that the first body, the first dead body, was on the way 
to the surface. Up to this time there had been the living, 
the rescued, the men who were able to tell their stories. 
Now, the awful and terrifying impact of the disaster 
would strike home. Proof was coming to the surface that 
there were dead men below. 

"Oh God, don't let him be my man!" The women 
offered silent prayers. Until a body came up, as long as 

There Is No Hope 63 

the man was not found, then there was no reality. There 
was always that slim thread of hope. 

At 5:45, a Draegerman appeared at the pithead and 
signalled to the police and the army to keep the people 
from surging forward. An ambulance moved up to the 
entrance, its motors shattering the deathly silence that 
had fallen over the crowd. Two more Draegermen, carry- 
ing a stretcher, stood outlined at the pithead. White- 
coated ambulance drivers, their uniforms in startling 
contrast to the garb of the blackened rescue workers, 
hastily flung open the door of the ambulance. The body 
on the stretcher was covered with a blanket. 

Someone at the pithead whispered, "It's Harry Halli- 

One name. It spread quickly through the waiting crowd. 

A piercing shriek echoed above the murmuring of the 

"Oh God! No! No. Harry! Harry!" 

Men rushed to the cry. Gentle hands led Eva Halliday 
away. The ambulance, carrying the body of fifty-three- 
year-old Harry James Halliday, sped away to Canadian 
Legion Hall, now converted into a makeshift morgue. The 
waiting continued. 

Neighbors took Mrs. Halliday back to her home at 181 
Main Street. It was a short ride from the pithead at the 
foot of Main Street. A short ride in terms of distance. 
An endless ride for the widow. 

The tears had stopped for Eva Halliday as she walked 
slowly in the front door of her home. 

Her husband's blind seventy-four-year-old mother was 
sitting in the living room. Beside her on the couch were 

64 Miracle at Springhill 

Harrys two step-daughters, Dorothy and Marjorie, The 
room was still as Eva Halliday entered. 

She sat down, without taking off her coat. She was 
tired. So very tired. It seemed as if she had been waiting 
for this moment ever since Harry first entered the mines, 
eighteen years ago. Now the waiting was over. 

"It was Harry, wasn't it?" the blind woman asked, 
knowing the answer. The old woman could not see, but 
she did not need eyes for this to feel the presence of 

Eva Halliday looked around the room and spoke, to no 
one in particular. "Call Reverend McConnelL Well have 
the funeral this Sunday/' 

At 6:30 A.M., Harold C. M. Gordon, Vice-President and 
General Manager of the Dominion Coal Company, drove 
his automobile onto the mine grounds. He had left his 
home in Sydney, three hundred miles away, many hours 
before. His back ached from the long drive. His eyes 
burned from lack of sleep. But he paused only long 
enough to change quickly into a Draegerman's outfit. In 
a few moments he was below ground. 

When the bump occurred Gordon had been immedi- 
ately notified by telephone at his home. He called his wife, 
Dorothy. "Pack a bag. They've had a bad bump at Spring- 

For Gordon it was a repetition of the 1956 explosion, 
when he went with rescue crews into No. 4 pit, directed 
operations, cleared deadly gas, exhausted himself. Now 
he would do it again. 

Dorothy called that his bag was ready. Just a few things. 
She knew what these calls meant. 

There Is No Hope 65 

"Be careful, dear/' she told him at the front door. 

He kissed her and said, Til try. It's bad there." 

Dorothy did not ask questions. She gave her husband 
a hug before he walked out the door. 

Gordon threw his bag in the back seat of the car, got 
in, and began the drive to Springhill. 

By 10:30 A.M., eighty-one men had been brought to the 
surface alive. One man, Harry Halliday, was now known 
dead. Ninety-two men were still unaccounted for, some- 
where in the twisted and shattered mine. Ninety-two tags 
still hung on Harry Weatherbee's board, the figure un- 
changed since before dawn. No one had been brought up 
alive or found alive since that time. 

Also at 10:30, Harold Gordon, his face blackened with 
grime, came to the surface. He did not stop to speak to 
anyone, but walked tiredly to the Wash House to try to 
scrub some of the dirt away. But he cpuld not wash away 
what he had seen. 

C. Arnold Patterson, public relations director for the 
Dominion Steel and Coal Company, had flown to the 
scene from his office in Montreal. He joined Gordon in 
the Wash House. 

"Arnie, you might as well call a press conference for an 
hour from now. I've got some bad news/' 

Patterson nodded. He began contacting the 137 news- 
paper people, telling them to be in the company office 
at 11:30 A.M. 

The reporters gathered in the office, prepared for the 
bad news. In a mood of somberness, they exchanged 
stories of the tragedy, things they had heard in the crowd, 
things they had seen. 

66 Miracle at Springhill 

One man told how he had found a small boy wandering 
aimlessly about the mine grounds. 

"What's the trouble, sonny?" he had asked. 

"I'm looking for my Daddy." 

"Where is he?" 

"He's in the mine. He hasn't come up yet." 

The reporter found himself fighting back tears. "Well, I 
think you'd better go home." 

"No, no!" the boy had said. "I don't want to go home. 
Everybody's crying there." 

The reporters listened. The words of a small boy, who 
was frightened about his father but reluctant to return 
home, had summed up one aspect of the tragedy. 

Patterson entered the room. "Mr. Gordon is on his way," 
he said. "Let him talk first. Then, if you have any ques- 
tions, he'll try and answer them for you." 

Patterson continued, speaking softly. "While we're 
waiting, I think you might like to know that Her Majesty, 
Queen Elizabeth II, has sent a message to Springhill by 
way of Governor General Vincent Massey. She expresses 
her concern and asks to be kept informed of all develop- 
ments here." The reporters took notes. 

Harold Gordon entered the room and joined Patterson. 
The two men faced the group. Patterson raised his hands. 
"Let's have it quiet, please. This is Mr. Harold Gordon." 

Gordon faced the crowd. The usual ruddiness of his 
face was gone and in its place was gray pallor. He looked 
older than his fifty-nine years. He seemed shorter than 
his six feet two inches. There were still traces of coal dust 
under his eyes and at the corners of his mouth. He had 
washed in a hurry. 

There Is No Hope 67 

"I have just returned from the mine," he said slowly and 
softly. "I have bad news." 

The room hushed. 

"There are no more men alive at the 13,000- and 
13,800-foot levels. The 13,000 wall was cut off. There are 
tremendous piles of debris in every approach. For the 
men in there, there may be some hope. But I say that 
only because we haven't seen them. The way things look, 
those still listed as missing must be presumed dead. There 
is virtually no hope left. That is all I can tell you now." 

Tears had clouded Gordon's eyes. Patterson stepped 
forward. "Are there any questions?" he asked. 

There were none. There was nothing to ask. 

Gordon left the conference to return to the mine. 

The news was immediately flashed to the world. But 
families whose men were still underground refused to 
believe Gordon's words. 

The crowd at the pithead did not dwindle. A body, 
a dead body, was the only way they would be convinced. 
Draegermen continued to push forward for the men that 
had to be brought out, dead or alive. 

More people continued to pour into the town during 
the day. Nova Scotia Premier Robert L. Stanfield arrived 
with Labor Minister Stephen Pyke, Lieutenant-Governor 
E. C. Plow, and Mines Minister A. E. Manson. They talked 
to rescue workers. They toured the area. They sympa- 
thized. But there was nothing they could do. 

More rescue units of the Red Cross arrived from Saint 
John; from Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island; Truro 
and Amherst, Nova Scotia. The Saint John Ambulance 
Nursing Division in Mtmcton, New Brunswick, sent a 

68 Miracle at Springhill 

mobile twenty-five-bed hospital. It arrived at noon. The 
equipment was divided between the armories and the 

Clothing began to come in from all parts of Canada. 
By now, seventy Draegermen were going down into the 
mine in each shift, working from various approaches. 
When they came to the surface their clothing was black 
and sweaty. Constant changes of clothing were needed. 

The afternoon wore on slowly as the Draegermen and 
"barefaced" men continued their work in the pit, only to 
emerge weary and bruised and heartsick. 

By late afternoon, more bodies began to reach the 
surface. More dead bodies. More proof. Edward Bobbie 
came up-dead. So did Cecil Cole, Harold McNutt, and 
Hiram Hunter. The men had spent most of their lives 
working in the mine. 

In the early evening Draegermen, "barefaced" men, 
and company officials returned to the surface. They agreed 
there was no one left alive at the 13,800-foot level or in 
that part of the 13,400 level to which they had gained 
access. Nothing was known about conditions at 13,000. 
Rescue crews could not break through. 

A "barefaced" worker told how his shift in six back- 
breaking hours had succeeded in getting up the 13,400 
wall only as far as the second stone wall, a distance of 
one hundred feet. 

During the evening, crews were sent into the 12,600 
level in spite of the heavy gas still hanging there. The men 
tried to reach the isolated 13,000 wall. A fresh air base 
was set up underground, about five hundred feet from 
the back slope. Men without masks were not allowed 
beyond this spot. 

There Is No Hope 69 

When the Draegermen reached the point in the level 
where the floor had been forced up so hard that it jammed 
the haulage rails against the roof, they had to crawl on 
their stomachs on the high side of the packs in the 12,600 
area. Their paths twisted and turned, by-passing areas 
where it was impossible to get through. 

By late evening, the drizzle above ground had turned 
to steady rain, transforming the already sodden ground 
into a sea of black mud. Still the people waited. They 
stood with umbrellas in the mud and waited. 

They waited all day and into the night. No more men 
were brought up alive. No more men were sighted below 
alive. Nothing was heard below, except the sounds of the 
rescue workers, and the inanimate noises of the mine. 


These, The Living 

Thursday slipped into Friday. And at the 13,000-foot level 
twelve men dozed and awakened and moved restlessly, 
vainly, to find a way out of the trap. 

In the morning, Levi Milley stirred and blinked his 
eyes. Morning? It was black as pitch. He had forgotten 
where he was for the moment. As he felt about in the 
darkness, his hand brushed a leg. The leg twitched, there 
was a groan. Heavy breathing and the smell of men and 
coal brought back the living nightmare. This was reality. 
He was still in the mine. It was not a dream. 

His stomach churned. The churning always came in the 
morning. But Velda and Judy were always there to have 
breakfast with him. Thank God they weren't here. 

He heard the others begin to move about and he 
switched on his lamp. The light played on the shiny black 
walls and the jagged roof. Joe McDonald was still in the 
same position on the rock pile, his face contorted in pain 
from his broken hip. Teddy Michniak, despite his broken 


These, The Living 71 

shoulder, lay next to McDonald, talking gently. "Take it 
easy, Joe. Well be all right." McDonald bit down hard 
on his lip and did not answer. 

Milley crawled over. "How are you feeling, Teddy?" 
he asked. 

"It hurts like hell, but not as bad as Joe, here." Michniak 
nodded toward McDonald, who stared straight ahead, 
trying to bear the pain and not cry out. 

"Levi, I don't think well make it out of here." Michniak, 
oldest of the twelve men, said it matter-of-factly. He 
was resigned. 

Joe McDonald heard him. "Don't worry, well get out," 
McDonald said, rubbing his hand across his forehead. 
"I can take it and so can you guys. Somebody will come 
and get us." 

McDonald's reassuring words prompted one of the 
group to ask, "Why don't we have something to eat?" 

"What time is it?" Bowman Maddison broke in. A few 
of the men snickered when Maddison said, "I always have 
a late breakfast." 

"Rushton's got a watch, ask him," Milley answered. 

Maddison turned to Rushton, but did not interrupt the 
prayer the latter was beginning. 

Our Father who art in Heaven, 
Hallowed be Thy name . . . 

The men heard faint snatches and joined Rushton, 
praying softly. Their fervent "Amen" echoed through the 

"What time is it, Caleb?" Maddison asked. 

Rushton looked at his watch. "Almost nine o'clock/* 

Maddison grinned. "I never get up this early." 

72 Miracle at Springhill 

"Let's eat/' a voice implored. 

"What will you have, one or two eggs with your 
bacon?" It was Maddison again, but this time no one ap- 
preciated his humor. 

Levi Milley was already busy cutting a sandwich into 
twelve parts. He moved closer to Joe McDonald and 
Teddy Michniak and handed them their meager portions. 
"Here's breakfast/' he said. Then he handed the others 
their bits. 

Each man nibbled and chewed slowly. 

Levi Milley measured out water in Eldred Lowther's 
aspirin bottle and passed it around. Not a drop was 
wasted. The bottle held less than a mouthful, but as each 
man received his share he swished it around in his mouth. 
At least it loosened some of the dust on his teeth and 
tongue. Then he swallowed, letting the tepid fluid trickle 
slowly down his throat. 

Wilfred Hunter, his twisted leg paining him, struggled 
to his feet and crouched against the ceiling. "I'm gonna 
look around some more," he announced. He switched on 
his light and stumbled off into the darkness. 

The weak rays from his dim lamp did not help much. 
He tripped repeatedly over piles of rock. Each time, he 
winced, pulled himself up, and kept going. It seemed a 
thousand miles, but he knew where he was headed. When 
he got there, he reached up to touch the body he thought 
was his dead brother. 

"Frank. It's Wilfred. I told you I'd be back. I won't 
leave you/* He gently stroked the leg. He could not reach 
the face. The miner remained there for half an hour, 
talking, patting the leg, assuring his twin that everything 
would turn out all right. Then he stumbled back and 

These, The Living 73 

joined the others. No one asked him where he had been. 
No one needed to ask. 

Bowman Maddison, Levi Milley, and Hugh Guthro 
switched on their lamps and began to move around in the 
shaft. Their lights were beginning to fail but they had to 
continue to search for a way out. Traces of gas still clung 
to the ceiling and they had to retreat. They changed 
direction, moving slowly and carefully. 

"Jesus, look at that pan engine!" Maddison exclaimed. 
The engine had smashed into the roof of the mine and 
dropped back again. The rails on which it once rode were 
twisted like spaghetti. 

"There's someone on the engine!" Milley exclaimed. 
His light had picked up a form draped over the wreckage. 

The men crawled quickly. Milley reached out and felt 
for a pulse. He looked closely at the face. "It's George 
Canning/' he said. "He's gone. Must have been thrown 
up to the roof with the engine." 

They left Canning where they found him. Then they 
crept back to the others, but did not report what they 
had found. It would serve no useful purpose, now. 

Once more everyone switched off the dwindling lamps. 
There were precious few hours left in the batteries. 

In the darkness, Larry Leadbetter called. "Guthro . . . 
Hughie Guthro ... Joe Holloway." 

The two men answered. 

"You fellows were in the 1956 thing. Do you think 
there's a chance for us to get out of here?" 

Guthro answered first, sympathetically. "My wife Mar- 
garet is waiting for me. She waited two years ago and I 
made it. She's waiting now. She knows I'll get out. We all 

74 Miracle at Springhill 

"Sure, sure, just relax and wait. Well make it," Hollo- 
way answered, in his usually gruff voice. 

The reassurance seemed to satisfy the twenty-two-year- 
old Leadbetter. 

The day wore on. The men removed their shoes, trying 
to get comfortable. They slept, awakened, then slept some 
more. They did little talking. 

Suddenly, in the late afternoon, Maddison cried out, 
"What's that?" 

Everyone snapped awake. 

"Be quiet! I hear something!" Maddison ordered. 

The men listened. 

"Don't you hear it?" Maddison pleaded for someone to 
hear. "It's vibration! They're using chipper picks. They're 
coming after us!" 

"I can hear it, too," Milley said, his voice rising with 
excitement. "Shh. Listen." 

Somehow the sounds of the chipper picks used by the 
rescue crews had reached them. But, in a few moments, 
the chatter died away. Silence, emptier even than before, 
crushed in on the men. 

"They've probably knocked off for the weekend," some- 
one said. "They figure there's no hurry. Everybody is 

Day became night. It was all the same in the darkness. 
The men finished another sandwich and divided more of 
their water in the aspirin bottle. 

Saturday dawned, pitch-black. The men did not have to 
be awakened. They had not slept during the night, listen- 
ing for more vibrations, noise that did not come. 

Levi Milley thought about dying. Would it be hunger 
or thirst? A bump would be better, quicker. He thought 

These, The Living 75 

about his wife, Velda, and his daughter, Judy. He felt 
like screaming and crying. He would not live to see his 
pretty little girl grow up. 

Bowman Maddison was glad that his friend Jimmy 
Demetre was the godfather of the new baby. Demetre 
would look after Solange and the children. TU never see 
them again" Bowman said, almost aloud. 

Caleb Rushton began his hymn once more. 

In fancy I stood by the shore one day, 
Of the beautiful murmuring sea . . . 

His voice was peaceful and soothing. 

The men listened and hummed. Soon they fell into 

In the evening, Gorley Kempt left the group for a 
search of his own. He returned with a battered lunch can 
he had stumbled over in the darkness. The can had pieces 
of a sandwich in it, supper for twelve. 

The pain in Joe Holloway's leg had deadened and he 
felt better. Quietly, he told the men stories about hunting 
deer, even his special spots. "There's a swell spot behind 
the old Intercolonial Railway, just outside town/' he re- 
vealed. "It's only about three or four miles in the woods. 
When we get out of here, well all go hunting together/ 7 

Holloway's words had a relaxing effect. One by one the 
men dropped off to sleep. Saturday had ended. 

At the top of the 13,000-foot wall, cut off from the group 
of twelve by a barrier of rock and coal, more men strug- 
gled for survival 

The seven had slept fitfully, but were awake when 
Friday morning came. 

76 Miracle at Springhill 

Maurice Ruddick slid over to Percy Rector who groaned 
and cried out without realizing it. Gently, Ruddick shook 
him into consciousness. 

Rector blinked his eyes, but did not speak. 

"Might as well give him the last of the aspirins," Rud- 
dick said to himself. "Here, Perce, take these/' He handed 
Rector four aspirins, which the trapped miner took silently 
and put in his mouth. Ruddick held a water can to Rector's 
lips. "Hungry?" Ruddick asked. Rector nodded. "HI get 
you something," Ruddick said, and crawled away. He 
returned shortly with a piece of sandwich, which Rector 
nibbled slowly. 

The other men also nibbled on pieces of sandwich, and 
put some away for the next day. Their water supply was 
now down to less than a quart. 

"Please God," Ruddick offered a silent prayer, "help 
us the best You can." 

Garnet Clarke was weary of searching for a way out. 
"I'm gonna take it easy," he said. "Just gonna wait for 
them to come and get us." He sighed and lay back on the 
ground, his back resting on a wood pile. 

No one made a move now to find a road to the surface. 
They sat, or lay, waiting in the dark. Some asked them- 
selves how long it would be before rescue. Others won- 
dered when they would die. 

The last four aspirins had little effect on Rector. The 
pain was too great. "I can't stand it any more!" he 
screamed suddenly. His voice, normally deep, was shrill. 

It shot through the men like a stabbing icicle. "Please, 
please, for God's sake, do something for me!" he pleaded. 
"Cut off the arm. It's no damn good any more. Just get 
me out of this. I'm begging." His body twitched with sobs 

These, The Living 77 

and convulsions. Then, mercifully, he lapsed into un- 

For several minutes the others sat where they were, 
shaken by Rector's ordeal, not uttering a sound. 

Finally, Pepperdine crept over to Ruddick. "What do 
you think? I've got the saw/' 

"Let's talk to the others," Ruddick answered, a cold 
shiver quivering down the back of his neck. 

The rest knew the purpose of the conference. Auto- 
matically they huddled close. 

"It might kill him," Clarke whispered. 

"He just can't take any more," Pepperdine said. "At 
least we can get him out of there and bring him in closer 
here with us. We could bandage up the stump with our 

"I don't know. I don't know," Ruddick muttered. "If we 
did it and he died and then we're rescued an hour later, 
how would we feel? We can't take his life in our hands." 

"Why don't we vote on it?" Clarke suggested. 

"Voting on a man's life?" The idea shocked Ruddick. 
"We don't have the right. That's for the Lord to decide." 

"Well, we've got to do something," Clarke answered. 

"He's right," Pepperdine agreed. "We've got to do some- 

Ruddick gave in reluctantly. "All right, let's vote. But 
remember, someone has got to do the job if we vote 'yes.' " 

The men shuddered and grew silent, ech struggling 
with his own thoughts. 

"Ready?" Ruddick asked, breaking the silence. 

For a moment no one spoke. 

"I say no," Ruddick began. 

"No," voted Clarke. 

78 Miracle at Springhill 

"No/* said Jewkes. 

"I vote no/' said Smith. 

"No," Hunter voted. 

The men waited to hear from Pepperdine. The sound 
of their heavy breathing was shattered by another scream 
of pain from Rector. 

Pepperdine had now decided. "Damn it, no!" He sobbed 
as he spoke. "He's only half-alive now, but you're right. 
We'd probably kill him." He paused. "I vote no!" 

The count was complete. Percy Rector would remain 
in his trap, his arm crushed in a vise of wood. 

The men sat in silence again, emotionally exhausted. 
They heard only faint scratchings in the distance. "Those 
damn rats!" Clarke commented. "They're all around us!" 

This time, however, the scratching was not mine rats. 
It was a man clawing for his life, desperately trying to 
tear his way out of a shallow hole. 

Byron Martin Barney, they called him was fighting 
for survival alone. He had been alone since the bump. 

The force of the upheaval had hurled Martin down the 
longwall face at the 13,000 level. His lamp had been 
blown off his head, and he was pinned between two stone 
packs by a fall of rocks. There, he lapsed into uncon- 
sciousness in the cavity between the packs, rocks piled 
at his feet, over his legs, under his waist, and only inches 
from where his head rested in the black dirt. 

When the rumbling and the screaming died and the 
dust had settled, he did not hear the voices of the others, 
the seven men only one hundred feet down the wall. He 
did not hear Percy Rector's screams echo off the walls. 
Barney Martin lay in this position, alone, unconscious, 

These, The Living 79 

through the night, separated from the others by a wall of 

At 5:00 A.M., Friday, Martin finally awoke. His mouth 
was filled with dirt he had sucked in during the night. He 
tried to moisten his lips but his tongue was caked and 
dry. He looked about, but saw nothing in the blackness. 
He reached up for his helmet light; it was gone. He tried 
to move his legs; the rocks on top held them fast. He 
moved his hands. More rock. He tore at the unyielding 
rocks, trying to grip something to pull himself free. Only 
dust and loose stones tumbled back toward him. 

Martin was hungry now. He felt for his lunch can, but 
it was gone. He felt for his water can hanging from a 
hook on his belt It was still there! He grabbed it and 
shook it frantically. It was about a quarter-full. He twisted 
off the top and drank a great gulp. How long had he been 
trapped? He did not even remember what day it was. He 
clawed at the rock repeatedly. He tried to grab something 
firm, but everything slipped from him. Gas swirled into 
the shaft and hung from the roof, dropping slowly down. 
The gas knocked him into unconsciousness again. He 
slumped forward, face now in the dirt. 

Martin did not realize he was in a hole of familiar 
shape six feet long and three feet deep. 

Sometime Saturday morning, he regained consciousness 
in his lonely, black pit. Once more Martin began clawing. 
His legs were numb. The skin on his fingertips was raw 
and bleeding, the nails split and broken. Coal dust and 
dirt was imbedded in his face. He rubbed tiny black 
fragments from his eyes. They burned and itched. He 
grabbed at his water can and drained it in one mouthful, 
then retched and threw up the liquid. His stomach ached 

80 Miracle at Springhill 

from lack of food. His head felt light. He fell unconscious, 

At 10:00 A.M., Saturday, Garnet Clarke decided he had 
rested enough. He thought he had slept soundly through 
the night and early morning, although he did not re- 
member waking or falling asleep. "How's about some 
food?" he called. He had forgotten how much was left. 

'There's only three sandwiches," Ruddick answered, 
"and damn little water." He was silent for a moment. 
"Well have one sandwich today and another one tomor- 
row. If we're still here on Monday, God forbid, well 
have the last one." He repeated the words to himself. 
"// were still here on Monday . . " He counted the days. 
"Thursday, Friday, Saturday, Sunday, Monday." He 
cursed softly under his breath. "By Monday, well prob- 
ably all be dead!" 

"Might as well look around for some food," Clarke said. 
He turned to Ruddick. "Maurice, is there any place we 
haven't looked? Any place you think there might be a 
lunch can?" 

"WeVe been all over," Ruddick answered. "There's no 
way out and there's no food." Then he added, "Probably 
no way in, either." 

Clarke pointed to a mass of debris a short distance 
away. "What about that wall?" 

Ruddick knew where Clarke meant. "Go ahead if you 
want to. It's probably blocked solid behind it." 

Clarke was still hopeful. "It might be loose at the top." 

Ruddick was irritable. "Well, go ahead if you want to. 
I'm staying here this time. Be careful. If you pull out a 

These, The Living 81 

piece of rock too fast, it might send the whole wall sliding 
down here." 

Clarke wanted company. He called to his buddy, Currie 
Smith. "Want to come along, Currie?" 

Smith answered by slowly getting up from the floor. 
In a squatting position he switched on his lamp. He swore. 
"This thing's getting weaker and weaker. It's only got 
about an hour left." 

"Mine too, but the hell with it," Clarke answered. "Let's 


The pair left, the rays from their lamps barely lighting 
the way. Carefully, they moved to the top of the debris 
at the roof and began trying to pick their way through. 
They pulled with their hands and twisted their fingers 
into every inch-wide opening, hoping to loosen just a bit 
of stone. They flattened themselves on their bellies and 
forced their bodies into places where it seemed no human 
could fit Clarke wiggled his fingers between two rocks 
and yanked. The rocks came away. 

"Over here!" he yelled to Smith. "It's loose here!" 

Smith scurried over. The two men worked side by side 
until they had made an opening for themselves. They 
crawled through, barely able to squeeze in. What they 
found was a body. 

"Who is it?" Smith asked, as he shone his light on the 
figure. "Whoever it is must be dead." 

Clarke reached under the body and gently lifted the 
face from the dirt. "It's Barney Martin." 

Martin heard his name and it summoned him back to 
consciousness. "Hello," he mumbled and once more fell 

82 Miracle at Springhill 

"It doesn't look as if he's got long to go," Clarke said. 
"Let's try to work him loose anyway/' 

The men pulled the jagged rocks from Martin's legs. 
They moved away the debris that dug into his sides and 
rearranged him in a more comfortable position. All the 
time, he did not regain consciousness. 

The air was now clear where Martin lay and Clarke 
and Smith decided to leave him there. To move him 
might cause injury. And there was no escape. Even if they 
could drag him out of the hole, they would not be able 
to push him through the narrow opening at the top of 
the wall. 

Slowly they worked their way back to the others. 
"There's eight of us now/' Clarke announced when they 
returned. "We found Barney Martin, but it doesn't look 
as if he's gonna last much longer. I don't know how he 
lasted this long." 

No one said much. Martin, they figured, might be better 
off than they. 

During the day, the men tried their lamps to see if they 
still worked. One by one, the lights flickered and died. 
For the first time, complete darkness engulfed them. 

Maurice Ruddick spent the evening pressing his body 
hard against the rocks. Pain was reality. Reality meant 
he was still alive. 

During the night he felt a hand reach over and touch 
his. It was someone merely wanting to feel the touch of 
another live human. Neither spoke. 

Just before midnight, Percy Rector screamed in pain. 
The men shuddered, but remained silent. 

Then a vibration in the distance brought them to at- 

These, The Living 83 

"Do you hear it?" Clarke asked in a whisper, trying not 
to drown the sound. 

The others strained to hear. 

"I hear something/' Ruddick answered, scarcely breath- 
ing. His heart pounded. "They haven't forgotten us! They 
must be coming for us!" 

"I can't hear a thing," Frank Hunter said. Actually, 
he was afraid to listen, afraid that if he heard, too, the 
sound would disappear. 

"They'll never get here in time," Pepperdine said dis- 
consolately. "They sound far away. They're probably not 
even hurrying. You don't hurry for dead men." 

It was as if Pepperdine's pessimism drove away the 
sound. The vibrations died. 

"Tomorrow is Sunday," Ruddick said calmly, watching 
the hands on his watch come close to midnight. "We'll 


In the Hands of God 

The weather had turned cool and a few straggling clouds 
drifted lazily across the sky as Sunday began for those 
on the surface. 

Eighty-one men were saved. The same figure had held 
since Friday morning. No survivor had been brought up 
since, though the death toll was rising. It stood now at 
eleven. And eighty-two men were still missing in the 
bump-rocked mine. 

Kathleen Burton had not left her house since Thursday 
night. She waited and prayed at home, cleaned house and 
prepared meals for her boys. Gary, the youngest, stayed 
home with her, helping with the chores and running 
errands. Billy, the eldest, divided his time between the 
pithead and home, where he brought the latest reports 
and rumors to his mother and her sister-in-law, Katherine 

This morning Sunday Kathleen planned to leave the 
house for the first time, to go to Mass. She knew she would 


In the Hands of God 85 

have to go early. St. John's would be crowded today. All 
of SpringhilFs eight churches would be crowded. The 
Anglican, Baptist, Nazarene, Presbyterian, Roman Cath- 
olic, Salvation Army, and the two houses of the United 
Church of Canada would be filling with sad, strained 

Billy Burton felt uncomfortable in his best suit. Getting 
all fancied up, even to go to church, was not to his liking. 

Kay Burton told her sister-in-law that she did not feel 
like putting on even a faint trace of lipstick. 

"It's been almost four days now," she said, as the two 
women put on their coats in the hallway. There was no 
need for an answer. 

Kathleen called to her sons. They joined her at the 
front door and Billy handed his mother the small family 
Bible. Then they walked from the house to church. 

Velda Milley had not left her home > since Thursday 
night either. Judy had made several trips to the mine 
but each time the girl returned home with little news and 
less encouragement. Judy decided not to return to the 
pithead anymore but to remain with her mother. 

On Sunday morning, Velda still did not feel like leaving 
the house, even to go to church. 

"Ill say my prayers here/' she told her daughter. Then, 
irrelevantly, "Did you take care of your father's chickens?'' 

"Yes, Mom, I fed them and I brought in the eggs," Judy 
answered. "Daddy will be proud of us when he comes 

"Yes, he will, dear," Velda answered, forcing a smile. 
In her heart she had terrible doubts that she would ever 
see her husband alive again. 

86 Miracle at Springhill 

"Do you mind if I go out for a while?" Judy asked. 
"I'd like to go to church if you won't be too lonely/' 

"Please go/' Velda answered. "It will help your poor 
father. We'll have some lunch when you get back." 

Judy threw on her coat, wrapped a kerchief about her 
blonde hair, and kissed her mother on the cheek. "This 
time, next week," she said, "Daddy will go to church, too." 

"He's going to church with you now," her mother an- 

Zora Maddison had not returned home since she raced 
out of the house Thursday night to wait at the pithead 
for her father. But her brother, Alden, made repeated 
trips to the mine to see that she was all right. Each time 
he brought a message from his mother, asking the young 
girl to come home and wait there, but each time she re- 

The fourteen-year-old girl waited in the huge Salvation 
Army tent when the weather was raw. When it was mild, 
she waited at the mine entrance. She slept in the tent. 
When she was hungry, she ate with the rescue workers. 
The men looked at her dumbly. They could tell her noth- 
ing about her father. 

There was no one to stay with the baby, so going to 
church was out of the question for Solange. She had been 
praying all week anyway. She would continue praying 
right up to the moment when she knew something for 

Alden helped his mother straighten up the house. Then 
he kissed her and left for church. 

Harold Clarke had not been home for two days. He 

In the heart of Springhill stands this stone and marble monu- 
ment, topped by the figure of a miner. It commemorates the 125 
men who lost their lives in the town's first mining disaster, 69 
years ago. 

By checking the tags on this board, Harry Weatherbee was able to 
estimate accurately the number of miners underground. The No. 2 
shaft, in which the men were trapped, is indicated on the chart 


No. 2 SHAPT 





$600 Ft LIVE 

Wide World Phot 

When the hump occurred, rescue teams prepared for action, 
Their arduous task was to go on for more than a week. While they 
worked, ambulances lined up near the mine, ready to rush sur- 
vivors to the hospital. 

Wide World Photos 

Wide World Photon 

The long hours of vigil were to last for more than a week. Shown 
here are relatives and friends of the miners trapped below. For 
only a few did the vigil bring a reward. 

Wide World Photos 

Wide World Photos 

Levi Millcy, shown here as he was removed from the mine, was 
one of twelve men who, buried for seven days, nevertheless sur- 
vived. He and his buddies had been eating coal in their effort to 
stay alive. 

Wide World Photo* 

The rescue of Doug Jewkes (above) and Garnet Clarke (on the 
stretcher below) occurred ten days after the bump, when seven 
more men were found alive. Although the men had given up hope, 
they had celebrated Clarke's twenty-ninth birthday by splitting 
their last sandwich seven ways. 

Wide World Photos 

Among the miners grateful to be alive were Teddv Mi 

Currie Smith . . 

*w .. 


Maurice Ruddick, the Singing Miner, is shown here with his 
four-year-old son. Ruddick's high spirit and morale wore appre- 
ciated by the men with whom he was entombed, four of whom- 
Bowman Maddison, Harold Brine, Eldred Lowther, and Levi 
Milley are pictured below. 

Wide World Photot 

In the Hands of God 87 

had joined the rescue workers and already had made 
several trips into the shattered mine. He chipped and tore 
his way through the rubble, helping locate bodies. Each 
time he came upon the form of a dead miner he shivered, 
despite the oppressive heat in the shaft. He feared it 
might be his brother. 

Old Thomas Clarke was awake early on Sunday. With 
one son unreported in the mine and another son with the 
rescue workers, the man had given up his vigil at the pit- 
head to remain at home with his daughter-in-law. On 
Sunday, however, he told Lorraine, "111 go to church 
today. Then 111 take a walk to the mine and wait there a 
bit." He put on his overcoat and tweed cap and left the 

Norma Ruddick had little time during the day to sit 
down or worry consciously about her husband. With 
twelve children she kept busy, although she was still weak 
after the birth of the baby. The elder children gave her 
all the help they could, but there were things a woman 
had to do herself. It was the terribly long nights, when 
everyone was asleep, that Norma Ruddick dreaded. 

Colleen and her sisters, Sylvia and Valerie, helped their 
mother prepare breakfast and clean up afterward. The 
three girls had taken turns waiting at the mine, but some- 
times they would go together to keep one another com- 
pany during the long, dull hours of waiting. With the faith 
of the young, the children were positive their father 
would soon be home. On Sunday, they went again to the 
mine, but first they went to church. 

Margaret Guthro had planned to attend services at St. 

88 Miracle at Springhill 

Andrew's United Church, but the shock she received on 
Saturday had not quite worn off and she decided to stay 

It was Saturday afternoon that Rev. Douglas Tupper 
drove up to her home. She saw him coming out of his car 
and heading for her front door. 

Suddenly, the room began to spin and her legs felt 
weak. "Hughie's dead!" she screamed. "Hughie's dead!" 
She sank to the couch, trembling, until Reverend Tupper's 
knock sounded on the door. 

The walk to the door seemed like miles. She knew that 
when a minister came to the house during time of disaster, 
it meant only one thing. 

Terrified, Margaret opened the door. "Hughie's dead, 
isn't he?" Her voice trembled as she blurted out the words. 

At once, the Reverend Tupper realized her state of 
mind. Placing an arm about her, he led her to the couch. 

"I'm terribly, terribly sorry," he said, trying to soothe 
her. "It's all my fault. I should have known better." 

Margaret's eyes filled with tears as she looked at the 

"No," he continued, patting her hand, "I haven't any 
news of Hughie. I just brought these cookies to you from 
the church." He held out a bag to her. "I thought you 
might like them." 

Margaret could not stop shaking as she took the bag. 
"Thank you/' she whispered between sobs of relief. 

"Everything will be all right," the minister soothed. 
"And I promise I won't be back again until I know some- 
thing definite. I'm sorry for upsetting you." He patted 
her hand again, rose from the couch and walked to the 
door by himself. Margaret was too upset to see him out 

In the Hands of God 89 

On Sunday, she was still too upset to leave the 

At St John's Catholic Church, a dry-eyed congregation 
listened to the pastor, Monsignor Thomas Buchanan. 

"Life is a struggle ... We must fight on/' he said 
haltingly. "Let us lift up our hearts to God for those who 
have gone before us for a short time and remember it 
is only for a very short time. . . ." 

At Wesley United Church, Rev. Desmond McConnell 
spoke: "These have been faith-shaking times for all of 
us." But he recalled the 1956 explosion and how faith by 
those who waited and by those who were trapped helped 
bring them through their ordeal. 

At St. Andrew's United Church, Mr. Tupper was still 
upset after his visit with M'argaret Guthro. "When a 
miner kisses his wife goodbye before going to work in 
the mine, he does it with meaning," he said. "They both 
know he may not be coming back." The Reverend Tupper 
was preparing his flock for the worst. 

In the afternoon, dark clouds moved over the Cobequid 
hills, bringing a threat of rain. The townspeople strolling 
on Main Street were silent and thoughtful. The women's 
faces were drawn tightly, their eyes showing the long 
hours of anxiety. The men, those not toiling with the 
rescue crews, looked uncomfortable in their Sunday 

There were two funerals that afternoon, funerals for the 
first two dead brought up from the mine. 

Services for Harry James Halliday began at two o'clock, 

90 Miracle at Springhill 

at his home at 181 Main Street. Two hundred relatives 
and neighbors crowded into the modest house in final 
respect to a man who had spent eighteen years in the 

The services were brief. Rev. Desmond McConnell de- 
livered the eulogy quietly. He told the gathering how 
Harry Halliday loved hunting and fishing and how "this 
man's life was centered in his home/' The choir, lined up 
at one side of the flower-bedecked casket, sang, "Good 
Night and Good Morning" and "Breathe on Me, Breath 
of God/' 

Halliday 's widow, Eva, could not cry. That would come 
later when everyone had gone and she was left alone in 
the house. 

Fifty mourners filled the cars behind the hearse that 
moved slowly past the mine entrance and up the wind- 
swept hill to Hillside Cemetery. 

Eva Halliday stood beside her husband's blind mother, 
as Mr. McConnell read the prayers delivering the miner 
back into the ground from which his body had been so 
recently removed. 

The sightless woman groped in her own darkness, her 
trembling hands seeking to touch the coffin of her son. 
She was helped forward by her daughter-in-law. Tenderly 
the mother patted the gray box, whispering, "Goodbye, 
Harry. May God be with you/' 

A photographer from one of the big city newspapers 
had his camera poised. He was ready to record what his 
editor would have regarded as a fine human interest 
picture. The photographer lowered his camera and turned 
away. He could not take the picture. 

In the Hands of God 91 

At three that afternoon, fourteen miles from Springhill 
in the small community of Collingwood Corner, funeral 
services were held for Harold Daniel MtNutt. 

The services were held at the home of Mr. and Mrs, 
Ewart Colborne, the parents of Mrs. McNutt. Rev. J. 
Earle DeLong of Springhill conducted the brief prayers. 
The choir sang "What a Friend We Have in Jesus" and 
"Abide with Me." 

Then Harold Daniel McNutt was buried at Wyvern 
Cemetery, near Collingwood Corner. 

At the mine, bone-tired Draegermen and "barefaced" 
men, oblivious to the day of rest, relentlessly pushed for- 
ward. Since Friday morning, no miner had been brought 
alive from the pits. 

Fog rolled out of the hills to cover the town with chill 
dampness on Monday. The rain had begun again and had 
transformed the ground into rivulets of mud by 6:00 A.M. 
when seven more bodies were brought to the surface. For 
seven more families the period of waiting was at an end. 

The toll still stood at eighty-one saved. Eighteen now 
were known dead. Still trapped below groundand pre- 
sumed dead were seventy-five men. 

At 9:00 A.M., Billy Burton ran home in the rain. 

He told his mother the news. His father, Charlie, the 
hero of the 1956 explosion who had led fifty-nine men to 
safety, had been located in the mine dead. 

Rescuers tunnelling through to the 13,000-foot level 
had found Charlie's body. His hand still clutched his 

92 Miracle at Springhill 

watch. This time, Charlie would not be the first man out 
of the pits. 

Kathleen Burton did not cry or break down when her 
son told her. She stared into space, folding and unfolding 
her hands in her lap. It was the only outward sign of her 
anguish. Finally she rose from the couch and walked 
slowly across the room to her sister-in-law who, up to this 
moment, had not been able to speak. 

"Charlie's gone," the miner's wife said simply. "Charlie's 

Harold Gordon called another press conference that 
night. He had just emerged from the mine, shaken and 
worn. Circles rimmed his bloodshot eyes, and he coughed 
repeatedly from the black dust he had inhaled. 

Gordon detailed the progress: Three separate crews 
were tunnelling toward the 13,000-foot level. "There's 
nothing much we can do but keep slugging and it's 
tough slugging." 

The 13,800-foot wall had been completely explored and 
only one body remained to be recovered in this area. 
Crews were busy at the 13,400-foot wall and had travelled 
better than halfway up the wall. The 13,000 level was 
clear of gas and the men were advancing rapidly, hoping 
to get to the face of the wall later that night. 

Gas lay on the 12,600-foot level and men working with 
masks had another two hundred feet to clear before ad- 
vancing toward the upper part of the 13,000-foot wall. As 
soon as the Draegermen cleared those two hundred feet, 
a rapid advance might be made. 

In the Hands of God 93 

At 11:00 P.M., rescue crews returning to the surface had 
a different story to tell. The anticipated breakthrough 
into the 13,000 level would be delayed. Rock, coal, and 
timbers were wedged in so tightly from the floor to the 
roof that it might be days before crews could even hope to 
enter the level. 

Many questions were now on the minds of rescue 
workers and people in the town. How much longer? If 
anyone had possibly survived for nearly five days and 
that seemed impossiblehow could they survive any 


The Birthday Party 

Twelve men gave up hope, slowly. A terrible hunger 
gnawed at them. Each of them dreamed about water. 

On Sunday morning, they came awake slowly, stretch- 
ing aching arms and rubbing dirt-crusted hands across the 
grimy stubble of their beards. They did not know how 
long they had slept. They did not remember waking in 
starts many times during the night and straining their 
eyes, trying to pierce the awful darkness that engulfed 
them. They did not remember falling back to sleep, after 
touching someone in the blackness just to make sure some- 
one else was there. 

Bowman Maddison yawned as he spoke. "They'd better 
come for us soon. WeVe out of everything/' 

"We're out of everything but hope/' Levi Milley an- 

Maddison still felt as confident as if he were waiting for 
a bus. It was only a matter of time before help would 
arrive, he was sure. 


The Birthday Party 95 

Milley was beginning to have gnawing doubts about 
rescue, but he still spoke of hope. 

"That's the way to talk/' Joe Holloway agreed. Hollo- 
way repeated his story of the 1956 explosion. He and the 
others would survive this one, too. Despite the agonizing 
pain of his broken leg, he felt it his duty to cheer thft 
others. "Me and Hughie Guthro managed two years ago. 
Well all manage this time/' 

The youngest of the group, Larry Leadbetter, had des- 
peration in his voice. ''Yeah, but you were down only two 
nights. We've been here since Thursday night and today 
is Sunday." The thought of it choked him. "And now 
there's no water and not a damn thing to eat." His voice 
began to rise. 

Maddison cut in, trying to prevent Leadbetter from 
breaking down. "Look," he said, "today's Sunday. If we 
were home we'd be on our way to church. We can pray 

Levi Milley agreed. "I know it's one helluva church, 
but it's the best we've got. Why doesn't Caleb start the 
singing? We can all follow him." 

The men huddled close together on the rubble floor. 
Caleb Rushton began his hymn in the darkness. 

Abide with Me! fast falls the eventide; 
The darkness deepens; Lord with me abide! 

His voice rang clear, despite the ache in his heart and 
the dryness in his mouth and throat. One by one, the 
others joined in. Their words echoed in the black, jagged 

When other helpers fail and comforts flee, 
Help of the helpless, O abide with me! 

96 Miracle at Springhill 

The voices grew louder and stronger. 

Swift to its close ebbs out life's little day; 
Earth's joys grow dim, its glories pass away; 
Change and decay in all around I see; 

Thou Who changeth not, abide with me. 

Someone in the darkness had stopped singing and was 
sobbing quietly. The others noticed, but continued. 

1 need Thy presence every passing hour; 

What but Thy grace can foil the tempter's power? 
Who like Thyself my guide and stay can be? 
Through cloud and sunshine, Lord, abide with me! 

When the hymn was over no one spoke. Some fought 
back tears. Each man was close to his God. 

"Caleb, that was fine/' Maddison finally said, a slight 
catch in his voice. "Could you sort of lead us in a prayer 
of some kind?" 

Rushton knelt in the darkness. Each man, except Hol- 
loway, who could not, lifted himself off the floor to one 
knee. They bowed their heads and closed their eyes as 
Rushton began his prayer. 

"Dear God," he began, "You know the fix we're in. We 
don't know any way out of it. We haven't got any food and 
we're out of water. Please, God, save us and bring us back 
to our families. Every one of us has a wife and we've got 
kids, too. They need us and we need them." 

He paused for a moment. The silence was punctuated 
only by the deep breathing of the men. "And, please, 
God," he went on, "keep the rescue boys safe while they 
come to get us. Help them, too. Amen." 

The others whispered a fervent "Amen." 

The Birthday Party 97 

"That's about the best I can do, fellows/' Rushton said. 
He sighed deeply. He was tired. 

"Thanks, Caleb," Maddison said. "It made us all feel 

The men lay back and rested and thought of home. 
They daydreamed of sitting down to dinner with their 
families, and of eating until they were full and drinking 
until their stomachs ached. They wondered if such a day 
would ever come again for them. 

Later, Wilfred Hunter crawled away from the others, 
dragging his injured leg painfully over rocks and fallen 
timber. He knew the way, even in the darkness, but each 
time he made the trip it took longer and longer. When he 
reached what he believed to be the body of his twin 
brother, Wilfred looked up at the roof. He could barely 
make out the form still suspended there. He touched a leg. 

"It's Sunday, Frank. I thought I'd say a prayer for us." 
He began haltingly, trying to think of the right words. 
"God," he said softly, "Frank and me are here in the 
ground. You know that already. Frank is gone and maybe 
my brother, Percy, is too. I'll probably be seeing them 
both soon. Please help us. Bless Frank and Percy and the 
others . . ." His voice cracked with emotion. "That's all 
I can say, God. Amen for me and Frank and Percy." 

Wilfred Hunter crawled back to the others. When he 
returned they were asleep. 

Monday morning brought a feeling of approaching 
death. Hunger pains woke the men, wrenched at their in- 
sides. They were growing increasingly silent, retreating 
into themselves, preparing for the end. 

Levi Milley lay on his side, his head propped on his 

98 Miracle at Springhill 

arm. It was more restful to keep his eyes closed than to 
stare into nothingness. He wondered whether Velda and 
Judy had gone to church the day before. Judy was prob- 
ably in school today. Or maybe there was no school. Mtist 
be lots of sorrow in town. 

He tried to picture the town in the daylight. He tried 
to remember what sunshine looked like, how a field of 
corn stood proud and high and waved gently from side 
to side in a soft breeze. Desperately, he attempted to 
conjure up a picture of the rooms in his home. But his 
thoughts would not focus. He wanted to scream because 
remembering was so hard. He felt like smashing his fists 
against the wall and breaking his way through to the sur- 
face. He imagined himself racing out of the shaft into the 
clean air and running, running, running until he reached 
his home. There was Velda waiting outside, her arms out- 
stretched. He ran and embraced her. And Judy, walking 
out of the house, greeted him: "Hi, Daddy. Back from 
work so early?" Didn't she know where he had been? 
Didn't they know what he had been through, how he had 
beaten his way out of the pit, shattered walls with his bare 
hands and run all the way home just to be with them? 
Didn't they know? 

Who was doing that banging at the back of the house? 
He hadn't hired anyone to make repairs. Maybe Velda 
had. "What's that banging?" he callednot realizing he 
had shouted it aloud. 

The men bolted upright. Milley's voice had brought 
them out of their own daydreams. Milley, too, was now 
back to reality. They listened, straining. The sound they 
heard was the clash of metal striking rock! They could 
barely believe the sound. 

The Birthday Party 99 

"They're coming for us! They're coming for us!" one of 
them shouted in the darkness. "Listen. Hear that? Some- 
one's coming!" 

The men were gripped now in a frenzy of excitement. 
Some groped for empty water cans, lunch boxes anything 
to beat, to make noise. Others smashed their fists against 
the walls, until their hands were cut and bleeding. Some- 
one rapped on a broken air pipe they all knew was clogged 
with dirt. But it led to the surface and maybe maybe the 
sound would travel. Frantically, they screamed and 

"We're here. We're here. For God's sake, we Ye alive!" 

The clashing sounds stopped, but the men did not know 
it, they were making so much noise. One by one the men 
fell back, breathing quickly, trying to catch their breaths. 
They felt weak. Their heads spun from the exertion. They 
felt like throwing up, but there was nothing in their 
stomachs. Instead, they retched and gagged. 

"The noise is gone," Bowman Maddison said at last, 
when finally he could speak. "They didn't hear us." 

"It's all over. They won't come for us," someone else 

Caleb Rushton began to sing, softly and slowly. 

In fancy I stood by the shore one day, 

Of the beautiful murmuring sea, 

I saw the great crowds as they thronged the way 

Of the Stranger of Galilee . . . 

Bowman Maddison joined him, The voices of the two 
men reverberated in the shaft. 

I saw how the man who was blind from birth, 
In a moment was made to see; 

100 Miracle at Springhill 

The lame were made whole by the matchless skill, 
Of the Stranger of Galilee. 

When the hymn was over, Maddison ran his hand along 
the uneven floor and picked up a small chunk of coal. He 
turned it over thoughtfully in his hand. "You know boys/' 
he said, "I heard once that coal was good for heartburn. 
It must be O.K. to eat, too." He had made up his mind, 
"I'm gonna try it/' 

He placed the piece in his mouth and crunched on it. It 
tasted terrible. He ran his tongue over its many edges and 
tried to chew harder and harder. The men could hear the 
sounds, like that of someone munching on celery. Maddi- 
son swallowed the soggy chips and felt them going down. 
"Not too bad/' he lied. "It takes away some of the empti- 

By then, the others were trying it, too. 

On the other side of the wall of coal and stone that 
separated the eight from the twelve, Maurice Ruddick 
watched the hands on his luminous watch. The movement 
fascinated and nearly hypnotized him in the dark. 

The other men were awake and silent. They had not 
slept well. Percy Rector's moaning kept them on edge. 
His cries seemed to come from all parts of the shaft as 
they bounced off the walls and slammed into the men like 
sharp knives. 

Seven men were together on Sunday morning. The 
eighth man, Barney Martin, was still cut off from the rest 
by a barrier of debris; he faced the day alone in a shallow 
hole, more dead than alive. 

"Today's Sunday," Ruddick announced, taking his eyes 

The Birthday Party 101 

off his watch. He reached to his right and gently nudged 
a form in the dark, trying to get an answer. 'It's Sunday/' 
he repeated. 

Garnet Clarke stirred and sat up. "I'm damn hungry," 
he said. "Is there anything left, Maurice?" 

"Yeah, we've got two sandwiches. Might as well finish 
one now." Ruddick reached down and lifted a lunch box 
onto his lap. He opened it and took one out. In the dark- 
ness he could not tell how dirty it was. 

Ruddick broke the sandwich into pieces as equal as 
possible, and the men crawled to him, feeling their way 
over the floor. They held out their hands. Ruddick pressed 
each man's share into the outstretched palm. Then he 
moved over to Percy Rector and held a bite-size portion 
to the suffering man's mouth. Even in his semiconscious 
state, Rector realized it was food. He took a small bite 
from the piece Ruddick held, and chewed slowly. When 
he swallowed, Ruddick gave him the last small piece. He 
held the water can to Rector's lips, allowing him only 
enough to wet his mouth. 

Ruddick crawled back to the others and passed the 
water can. The men were on their honor, in the impene- 
trable blackness, not to take more than their mouth-wet- 
ting share. No one cheated. When the can was returned 
to Ruddick, the bottom was still covered by water. 

"It's Sunday," Ruddick repeated, after finishing his own 
piece of the sandwich. He did not wait for comment. "It's 
Sunday and we'll pray." He began with a hymn, his voice 
clear and strong. 

Rock of Ages, cleft for me, 
Let me hide myself in Thee, 

102 Miracle at Springhill 

Let the water and the blood, 

From Thy wounded side which flowed, 

Be of sin the double cure, 

Save from wrath and make me pure. 

Percy Rector had stopped moaning. The excruciating 
pain was still with him, but he struggled to hold back 
and listen to Ruddick. Rector could not sing. He did not 
have enough strength. Even breathing jarred his mangled 
arm and almost reduced him to insensibility. 

Ruddick's voice continued, unfalteringly. 

Could my tears forever flow, 
Could my zeal no languor know, 
These for sin could not atone; 
Thou must save, and Thou alone; 
In my hand no price I bring; 
Simply to Thy cross I cling. 

Garnet Clarke joined in: 

While I draw this fleeting breath . , . 

Frank Hunter, Douglas Jewkes, Herb Pepperdine, and 
Currie Smith added their voices. They were not as loud 
or as clear as Ruddick's. 

When my eyes shall close in death, 
When I rise to worlds unknown, 
And behold Thee on Thy throne, 
Rock of Ages, cleft for me, 
Let me hide myself in Thee. 

The voices trailed off. Each man silently offered his 
personal prayer to his God. The words "When my eyes 
shall close in death" stuck in their minds. They were re- 

The Birthday Party 103 

signing themselves to the end. The only question was 
when it would come. 

Almost as if he could read their minds, Maurice Rud- 
dick cried out, "Let's do something! Me, I'm gonna make 
some noise!" He ran his hand along the ground until he 
found an empty water can. As he moved slowly along the 
ground, climbing over the outstretched legs of the others, 
he kept talking. "M'aybe they!! hear us. We've got noth- 
ing to lose/' When he reached the end of a broken air pipe 
he began pounding it with the water can. 

Garnet Clarke found a rock and joined Ruddick at the 

It was contagious, and soon six men were beating on the 
air pipe or against the walls. They used rocks and water 
cans, as well as their fists. Then, exhausted, they fell back 
to the ground, breathing heavily, panting and sobbing at 
the same time. In a while, silence closed in again. The 
only sound came from Percy Rector, who was becoming 
delirious and was mumbling. 

Then there was another sound, almost as if in answer 
to their pounding. In the distance were thumps, barely 
audible, far away, faint but distinct. 

"Hear that?" Garnet Clarke whispered. 

"They haven't forgotten us," said Currie Smith. 

Maurice Ruddick struggled to get up. "WeVe got to 
make them hear us. WeVe got to let them know we're 

The men were now all sitting up. 

"We'll take turns at the pipe," Ruddick said 'I'll go 
first." He found a water can, returned to the broken air 
pipe, and began a slow, rhythmical rapping. When his 
arm began to ache, he shifted the can to his other hand. 

104 Miracle at Springhill 

He tapped until he could barely lift either arm. Then he 
crawled back to the others. 

The thumping in the distance died away. But several 
hours later the men heard it once more. Garnet Clarke 
took his turn at the pipe, until his arms became leaden 
and hung helplessly at his sides. Painfully, he dragged 
himself back, stretched out on the floor and closed his 
eyes. He tried to remember what daylight was like. 

Later in the evening, the thumping sound returned. 
Currie Smith moved to the pipe. He remained at his post 
until it again died away. 

The banging was too much for Percy Rector. His 
screams of agony awakened the dozing Maurice Ruddick. 
"That poor, poor bastard," Ruddick muttered. He crawled 
to Rector and strained to make out a jumble of words. 

"I ... know , . . where . . . big . . . well . . .take . . . 
horse . . . wagon ... get ... water . . /' 

"He's talking about getting a horse and wagon and go- 
ing for water/' Ruddick informed the others. "The poor 
guy's delirious. Thinks he's on a farm or somewhere 
where there's a well." 

Rector stopped talking. His head fell forward on his 
chest. He was unconscious. 

"What do you think we should do about Perce, now?" 
Ruddick asked. 

"We went over that before," Pepperdine answered. "I've 
still got the saw blade but I don't want to use it." 

Each man reaffirmed his earlier decision not to ampu- 
tate. They all desperately wanted to relieve Rector's 
suffering. But there was nothing they could do. Inter- 
mittently, they drifted off to sleep. 

The Birthday Party 105 

On Monday morning, Garnet Clarke was the one to 
break the silence. "What time is it?" he called softly to 

Ruddick was already awake. Now he held his arm up 
close to his eyes to make out the hands on his watch. 
They stood at 5:00 A.M. He told Clarke the time. 

"Today's my birthday/' Clarke announced, 

"How old are you?" Ruddick asked. 

"Twenty-nine. The way it looks, I won't get a chance to 
get any older." 

Ruddick ignored the remark. "Hey fellows," he called 
out. "Wake up. Everybody up. Today's Garnie's birth- 

The men stirred, stretched, and sat up. "A helluva place 
to have your birthday," someone said. 

"We'll have a birthday party for Garnie," Ruddick went 
on, when he was sure all were awake. 

Currie Smith tried to get into the spirit of an impending 
party. "Anyone got a razor?" He rubbed the black stubble 
on his face. "I can't go to a party without a shave." The 
others rubbed their faces automatically. They had not 
realized that their beards had grown so much during their 

"Look," Ruddick said. "WeVe got one sandwich left. 
We were gonna eat it for breakfast. Let's have it now for 
the party. When we get out of here we'll have a real party. 
All of us. It'll last for days and I'll get roaring drunk!" A 
picture of all of them at his home flashed through Rud- 
dick's mind. He saw them eating and drinking, dancing 
and laughing. It was a good picture. But it left him the 
moment someone said, "Better have the party now. Don't 
plan on getting out of here." 

106 Miracle at Springhill 

Ruddick continued, as if he had not heard. "I'm gonna 
break up the sandwich. I don't even know what kind it is." 
He held it up to his nose and smelled. "I still don't know 
what the hell it is." He tore off a small corner of the sand- 
wich and moved to Percy Rector. The others waited. 

Rector was barely conscious when Ruddick reached 
him. When the piece of sandwich was held to his mouth, 
he took it in one bite. Ruddick pressed the water can to 
Rector's lips and he swallowed eagerly, but the can was 
quickly pulled away to save its meager contents for the 

"All right boys, we'll have our party now/' Ruddick said 
brightly when he returned. He tore off pieces and the men 
crawled to him for their portions. They did not eat, but 
sat in the darkness, clutching the grimy bits of food, wait- 
ing for the party to begin. 

"Just make believe it's a piece of cake," Ruddick sug- 
gested. "A cake Garnie's girl friend made for him/' He 
was trying to inject some frivolity into the scene. 

Ruddick's remark brought smiles to the faces of the men 
who could not see one another. They began to eat, taking 
tiny bites to make the food last longer. 

"Now well wash it all down/' Ruddick said jokingly 
when he figured the men had finished eating. He passed 
the water can and the men wet their lips. When it was 
returned, the can contained less than a thimbleful. Then 
it was gone. "That's the last of everything," Ruddick said, 
dropping the can to the ground. "We're out of everything 

The men grew silent and Ruddick was sorry he had 
mentioned it. They knew it anyhow, he thought. But he 
shouldn't have spoiled the party by mentioning the situa- 

The Birthday Party 107 

tion. He began to sing as loudly as he could. "Happy birth- 
day to you, happy birthday to you . . " 

The others did not expect Ruddick, or anyone, to sing, 
and it startled them. 

"Come on/' Ruddick urged. He tried to make his voice 
cheerful. " After all, it's Garnie's birthday. Now, I'll start 
it again/' He began once more. "Happy birthday to you, 
happy birthday to you . . ." 

The others joined in; everyone but Percy Rector, who 
was too weak, and young Clarke, who did not feel it would 
be proper to sing "Happy Birthday" to himself. 

"Happy birthday, dear Garnie, happy birthday to you!'* 

Garnet Clarke was glad for the moment that it was 
dark. A man of twenty-nine should not be seen crying. 


"No Further Hope" 

A fifteen-mile-an-hour northeast wind whipped the rain 
in great sheets across Main Street. From the top of the 
street it was impossible to see the mine entrance. Heavy 
fog hung close to the ground. At the mine, only a handful 
of people waited inside the great Salvation Army tent. 
They huddled by the pot-bellied stove, trying to escape 
the rawness of Tuesday morning. 

Draegermen and "barefaced" men stopped at the tent 
after they finished their shift below ground. All told the 
same story to the anxious relatives. They were making 
progress as little as a foot an hour but progress. It was 
hot below, and the work was backbreaking. Many dis- 
played cut and raw hands and elbows from dragging 
themselves along the ground, from trying to force their 
bodies into places where no human being should crawl. 

Most of the rescuers shook their heads glumly when 
asked, "Is there any hope at all?" 

The majority of the townspeople were still at home this 


"No Further Hope" 109 

morning, preparing to attend six more funerals. Seven 
men had been buried the day before: Edward Mac- 
Donald, Percy Bryan, Edward Bobbie, Eldon Stevens, 
Clyde Corkum, Hiram Hunter, and Cecil Cole. 

Today, six more were to be returned to the sodden 
ground: William Turnbull, Angus Gillis, Bernard Miller, 
Isaac Holloway, William Smith, and Clarence MacLeod. 
Services were being held morning and afternoon. The 
procession of funeral cars seemed never-ending. 

On the still green lawns of the cemeteries that fringed 
the town, row after row of fresh mounds of earth scarred 
the rolling land. There were not enough gravediggers so 
relatives and friends helped prepare final resting places 
for their dead. 

This morning, the count stood at twenty-two bodies 
brought to the surface and identified. Seventy-one men 
were still missing. 

At 9:00 A.M., General Manager Harold Gordon came to 
the surface for the fifth time and called a press confer- 
ence. Newspaper, radio, and television representatives 
gathered in the company office again. The feeling of 
despair had spread to this hard-boiled group. 

Black dirt still caked Gordon's face. His eyes were 
bloodshot and his voice was hoarse, but he spoke slowly 
and deliberately. 

"The rescue crews are making only ten to, twelve feet 
in each eight-hour shift. They cannot go through any 
faster. It is almost solid rock ahead of them." He paused 
to let his words sink in and take effect. 

Before Gordon could continue, a reporter quietly asked 
him what he meant. Gordon stared directly at the re- 

110 Miracle at Springhill 

porter. "It means/' he said, with a look of a man con- 
demning a town to death, "that there is no further hope. 
There just can't be. We cannot hold any reason to believe 
that men will be found alive when we finally do reach 

"In other words," another reporter asked, "the men still 
in the mine and unaccounted for are all dead?" 

'There is no reason to think otherwise." Gordon rubbed 
his eyes as if to loosen some of the dirt. Actually, he was 

Gordon's statement was quickly relayed to the rescue 
crews who were readying their equipment in the Draeger 
House, preparing to go below once more. The men hur- 
ried with their breathing masks. They hunched their 
shoulders and straightened them, making sure the weight 
on their backs was properly distributed. 

"I don't give a damn what Gordon said," one of the men 
said bitterly. He was tired. His bones ached. His nerves 
were rubbed raw. He hated to go again into the black 
hole. All he wanted was a clean bed with nothing but 
hours and hours of sleep. "I don't give a damn what any- 
one says," he repeated. "Until I see the boys dead, I'm 
gonna keep going back down." He strode from the room. 

The rest of the crew fell in behind him, and^ marched 
single-file into the rain and across the muddy grounds. 
They entered the mine, water dripping from their hel- 
mets, to dig and claw and crawl once more. 

The families of the men still below ground also heard 
Gordon's statement. They saw him on television. They 
heard him on their radios. They were told about it at the 

"No Further Hope 9 111 

pithead. It was something most of them expected but 
hoped they would never hear. 

When the news was relayed to the mine grounds, 
women and children left the tents and walked slowly out 
into the rain. They left the pithead, pausing to look back 
at the activity of the rescue crews coming and going. They 
passed under the archway onto Main Street. Most decided 
now to wait at home for the final word that a husband 
or a father was dead. 

Zora Maddison still had not returned home. Despite 
what practically everyone else now believed, the young 
girl refused to give her father up to the mine. She had 
left the tent to stand in the rain and she shivered in the 
dampness as a Draeger crew moved by her. Maybe, she 
thought, this shift would find her father. She turned and 
walked slowly through the ankle-deep mud back to the 
tent, to continue her vigil. 

At home, Solange Maddison heard the news on the 
radio. She had finished feeding the baby and had placed 
him gently in his crib when Gordon's announcement 
crackled over the air. The strength ebbed from her body 
as she slowly walked into the front room and sat dis- 
consolately on the couch. She sat there, staring at nothing. 

Half an hour passed before her brother-in-law arrived 
at the home. The front door was unlocked and he let him- 
self in. Ralph Maddison took her hand in his. "I guess it's 
all over/* he said. "Is there anything I can do?" He could 
not think of anything else to say. 

"Will you make arrangements at the cemetery?" 

"Hillside?" Ralph did not know why he asked that. He 

112 Miracle at Springhill 

knew Hillside would be the cemetery. It was just for want 
of something to say. 

"Yes, Hillside. I don't even know how much a plot costs. 
I never thought I'd be thinking of these things so soon." 

In Moncton, New Brunswick, the Metropolitan Life In- 
surance Company was preparing a check for six thousand 
dollars for Mrs. Bowman Maddison of Springhill. As soon 
as her husband's body was brought to the surface and 
identified, they would mail it. 

Velda Milley and Judy sat silently for several minutes 
before the television set. Both had finished a light break- 
fast and straightened up the kitchen in time to watch 
Gordon. Velda had not been out of the house since the 
night of the bump. Judy remained home from school, ex- 
pecting the worst. But the statement left them momen- 
tarily stunned. 

Levi's chickens clucked incessantly in the backyard. 
The rain beat against the windows of the house back- 
ground music to the tragedy. Judy took her mother's hand 
and squeezed. "Gordon could be wrong/' she whispered. 

Garnet Clarke's father, Thomas, did not say a word 
when he heard the statement on the radio. But his daugh- 
ter-in-law, Lorraine, gasped and began to sob. 

Clarke remained silent for another moment, absorbed 
in his own thoughts. "He didn't even live long enough to 
get married," he mumbled. "Yesterday he would have 
been twenty-nine/' 

Norma Ruddick was busy with the twelve children and 

"No Further Hope' 113 

did not hear the radio, even though it was turned on for 
the latest news. 

The oldest girl, Colleen, heard Gordon's statement. "I'm 
not going to tell Momma what he said/' she told Sylvia. 
"Shell only worry more. And anyway, I don't believe 
him." The girl honestly did not believe Gordon. She did 
not believe anyone who might even suggest that her 
father, Maurice, was dead. 

Sylvia, acting older than her eleven years, whispered 
like a conspirator. "Momma's upstairs with the baby. She 
didn't hear the radio. We won't say a thing." 

The girls cleaned up the breakfast dishes and swept all 
the rooms downstairs. They walked upstairs and informed 
their mother that they were going to the mine. 

"In this rain?" Norma asked. "You'll catch cold. M'aybe 
you ought to stay home today." Norma knew better than 
to demand that the girls stay home. They had been going 
to the mine every day. 

"We'll dress warm," Colleen said. 

"We'll be all right," Sylvia added. "We'll stay in one 
of the tents." 

The sisters put on their boots, slipped into slickers, and 
wrapped kerchiefs around their heads. They walked out 
of the house and down the muddy road to the pithead. 

By now, Margaret Guthro had given up hope. In 1956, 
she had waited three days and nights at the pithead and 
Hughie had come up alive. This time it was different. 
Hughie had been down in the pit since Thursday after- 
noon. Now it was Tuesday morning. The only men being 
brought to the surface were dead. 

There were only a few things left to do. Today, she 

114 Miracle at Springhill 

would buy a black dress and hat and check the deed to 
the cemetery plot. Thinking of what the funeral would be 
like, she thought suddenly of the front door. Hughie had 
built their four-room house with his own hands in 1950, 
all in his spare time, but he never did get around to put- 
ting in a front doorstep. It had not mattered. The family 
always used the side door. But now a casket would have 
to be taken out the front way. There had to be a step. 

Margaret, feeling strangely alone, walked to the tele- 
phone and called her brother. Would he build the step 
for her? 

Tomorrow, he said, he would be at her house with 
lumber and nails. 

Separate rescue crews picked their way slowly through 
the battered 13,800 and 13,400 levels, working with one 
goal in mind: break through to the unexplored and un- 
reported 13,000 level. By Tuesday morning, the crews still 
did not have any idea when the breakthrough might 
come. Their muscles protested at the agonizing work, but 
they kept moving. 

At the 13,800 level only a few bodies remained. These 
had been left for last, the ones most difficult to get to. 
Most of them were smashed against the roof or wedged 
in between huge timbers. 

When there were few people waiting at the pithead, 
usually in the cold hours before dawn, a supply of burlap 
bags was sent down into the mine with the rescue crews. 
Hack saws were used to free some of the trapped bodies 
and the remains placed in one of the burlap bags. The 
people waiting at the surface saw the bags come up. They 
knew what they meant, but it was never mentioned aloud. 

"No Further Hope" 115 

Tunnelling down from another direction, gas-masked 
Draegermen dug along the clogged 12,600 level. Nearly a 
thousand feet from the exit-entry slope, it was decided 
that better progress would be made by hacking a low, 
narrow passage through virgin coal at the high side of 
the level. Sweating in the oppressive eighty-five-degree 
heat of the pit, weighed down by breathing apparatus on 
their backs which seemed to grow heavier and heavier, 
the men had to pick away at the shiny coal. 

Tuesday afternoon. Bowman Maddison crunched on a 
piece of coal. It did not relieve his hunger. And it only 
added to his thirst. 

He reached out in the darkness and his hand touched 
Levi Milley. "That you, Levi?" he asked. He knew who it 
was. He just needed reassurance. 

"Yeah, it's me. What's the matter? Feel sick?" 

"No, just damn thirsty/' 

"Me too. I could drink a gallon of ice-cold beer right 
now/' Levi was having difficulty talking because of his 
parched throat. He ran his tongue over his cracked lips. 
"Boy, it feels hot in here all of a sudden/' 

"Probably because we're so thirsty," Maddison replied. 

The others were talking low, each to the one nearest 
him. There was no joking or suggestion to explore further 
along the top of the wall. Each man felt that the end was 

"We've got to save our strength," Maddison said hol- 

"For what?" Milley asked. "And how in hell do we save 
it? Just by waiting here and not eating or having anything 

116 Miracle at Springhill 

to drink?" He called out in a raspy voice to Caleb Rush- 
ton. "Caleb, what day is it?" 

"It's Tuesday. Tuesday afternoon," Rushton replied. 

Milley again counted the days. "No one is coming for 
us!" He made the announcement as if it were a great dis- 
covery. "The mine is sealed off," he continued, almost 
hysterically. "You hear me, Bowsie? The mine is sealed 
off! We're all gonna die and we can't do a thing about it!" 

As if in answer to Milley 's words, the thumping sound 
began again. 

"Hear that? Hear that, Levi?" Maddison yelled. His 
voice was so hoarse he did not recognize it as his own. It 
seemed to be coming from someone else. 

The men scarcely breathed. They listened, straining to 
catch the sound. 

"I'm gonna try the pipe again," Maddison said, lifting 
himself to his knees. He crawled to the broken air pipe 
and began to rap it with an empty water can. 

The thumping became a vibration, but it did not seem 
to come any closer. 

"Sounds like the air fans making that noise," Maddison 
said. For an hour he kept tapping, until the vibration 
faded and was gone. His arms were numb. Perspiration 
rolled down his forehead and stung his eyes. His chest 
ached and his face was on fire. He could not speak as he 
dragged himself painfully across the rough floor, back to 
his spot. 

He lay back, trying to catch his breath. The thirst was 
unbearable. God, he thought, I'm gonna die of thirst. He 
became dizzy and his body began to tremble. "I never 
thought I'd die of thirst," he whispered to himself. His 

"No Further Hope 9 117 

head spun. A great weakness engulfed his body. Feebly, 
he reached out again to touch Levi Milley. 

Milley was trying desperately, but vainly, to drive thirst 
from his mind. But he could not keep his thoughts away 
from his home. And in his home was the kitchen, the sink, 
the water faucet. The water was running and it filled up 
the sink, splashing onto the floor. Velda was sitting in a 
chair watching it, and she was laughing. Laughing! 
Laughing at water splashing onto the floor! Judy was at 
the oval table, busy with her homework. She didn't even 
notice the water. She didn't care. Where am I? Tm not in 
the house. There's just Velda and Judy! Does that mean 
I'm dead? 

Everything was jumbled together in Milley 's mind, but 
none of the things seemed to fit. He saw his chickens run- 
ning around inside the house, defecating wherever they 
went. No one paid any attention to them. Velda! Judyl 
Look at the chickens! No one even hearfL 

Now he was outside the house. Velda was splashing 
black paint over the newly painted trim. Judy was stand- 
ing at her side. 

Milley was sure this meant he had died. He did not hear 
the thumping sound begin once more. When Gorley 
Kempt brushed by him in the dark to begin rapping on 
the pipe, Milley was finally asleep. 

Four hundred feet away, on the other side of the wall 
of stone, Maurice Ruddick clenched and unclenched his 
fists. The Singing Miner was thirsty and hungry, but he 
still felt strength. He began to run over the words of a 
song he would set to music if he ever got to the surface 

118 Miracle at Springhill 

again. At any rate, even if he didn't, it helped pass the 

The twenty-third of October, well remember that 

Down the shaft underground in our usual way . . . 

It doesn't sound too bad, he thought, and smiled to 
himself. Maybe some real slow music for it. 

In the Cumberland pit town, the rafters crashed 

And black hell closed around us, way down in the 

ground . . . 

Not bad. Not bad at all. A smile again creased his 
nigged, filthy face. He saw himself singing the song into 
his tape recorder at home. Maybe the quartet would sing 
it. Then they could send it away to some radio station or 
music publisher. There should be a good market for a 
song like this. 

Percy Rector snapped him out of the daydream. The 
others stirred and came wide awake, too. 

"Oh, no, you're not gonna get that," Rector was yelling. 

Ruddick slid over to Rector and patted him on the leg. 
"He's delirious again. Thinks he's talking to his kids." 

"Muriel, I said no!" Rector yelled again, thrashing about 
with his good arm. Ruddick stroked the distraught man's 
face, trying to calm him. Rector was clammy. He should 
have been warm and sweaty, like the rest. 

"I ... get . . . water . . ." Rector went on incoherently. 

Ruddick patted him again. "Easy now, Perce. Just take 
it easy and everything will be all right. We're all here with 
you. Just take it easy." 

"No Further Hope 9 119 

But Rector was unconscious. Only his heavy, labored 
breathing announced that he was still alive* 

Twenty-nine years and one day old. That was Garnet 
Clarke today. Like Ruddick, he had not yet grown weak 
from the hunger and the thirst. But he could not sit still 
Just sitting, waiting for the end to come . . . No, damn it, 
there must be something to do! 

"Currie," he called to his buddy, Currie Smith. 

"What is it, Garnie?" 

"Want to look around again? We should see how Barney 
is/' It was just an excuse for some company. 

"I guess so," Smith answered. He was not anxious to 
creep about in the dark. And he was tired. But what was 
there to lose? 

The men rose to their knees and hunched over, moved 
away together down the wall. They inched their way, 
keeping close to each other, to the narrow opening they 
had made earlier. They scrambled over the rock and 
timber and wedged their bodies through the small hole. 

"He's not here!" Clarke exclaimed. He felt along the 
ground, trying to locate the body of Barney Martin. 

"He's got to be here! Where the hell could he go?" 
Smith answered. 

They moved around the narrow trap, reaching out to 
either side for Martin. Panic was beginning to build up as 
they scoured the pitch-black area. 

Finally, Clarke called out. "Here he is! He must have 
crawled away trying to get out." He bent over Martin and 
put his ear to the man's chest. "His heart's beating." He 
put his face close to Martin's mouth. "He's breathing, but 
you can hardly tell." 

120 Miracle at Springhill 

Currie Smith crawled over, following the direction of 
Clarke's voice. He whistled softly through his teeth. 
"Jesus, I never expected to find him alive!'' 

Clarke slid his hand under Martin's head and lifted it 
slightly. "Barney, Barney Martin," he whispered close to 
Martin's ear. 

Martin stirred and blinked his eyes, but he could see 
nothing in the darkness. "Water?" he asked. His voice was 
barely audible. 

"We don't have any, Barney," Clarke said. "I wish we 
did." He let Martin's head gently down to the floor. The 
miner was unconscious again. 

"On the way back, feel around for cans or pails," Clarke 
suggested to Smith. 

"I was gonna do that anyhow." 

Clarke and Smith started back, squeezing once more 
through the small gap at the top of the wall. They did not 
find anything. They resumed their places on the floor and 
kicked off their shoes again. The crawling and searching 
for Barney Martin had taxed what little strength they had. 

Clarke lay back on the ground and stretched his arms, 
his hand touching a timber. It gave him an idea. No, it 
couldn't be any good. It was too crazy. But this whole 
mess was crazy. So what was there to lose? "You know 
fellows," he finally said, "I remember reading someplace 
about some guys who were trapped like us. They kept 
alive by eating bark." He paused for what seemed like a 
minute, but no one replied. "They just peeled some from 
the props and ate it," he explained. The others merely 
listened. "I'm gonna try it," Clarke said. 

He pulled some of the outer covering from the timber 
next to him. It was dirty, but he could not see that in the 

"No Further Hope" 121 

dark. He held it to his mouth and took a small, hesitant 
bite. Slowly, very slowly, he ground his teeth into it until 
it became a soggy ball. Then he swallowed. 

Maurice Ruddick was doing the same thing. "It isn't too 
bad/' he announced. "Try it boys." The others were al- 
ready chewing. 

After this meal the men rested. Occasionally they dozed. 

Some time in the afternoon, the vibrations and thump- 
ing started again. But this time something else was added. 
There was a tapping! It seemed to be coming down the 
broken air pipe. 

Clarke screamed when he heard it. His heart began to 
pound. "Hear that? Hear it?" He was on his hands and 
knees. "They're trying to signal us! Count them." 

The men listened, counting under their breaths. 

"Six times," Clarke said softly. The others agreed. He 
jammed his feet back into his shoes and, despite his aches, 
crawled quickly on all fours to the broken pipe. He 
grabbed the empty water can and tapped the pipe de- 
liberately. Six times. Then he waited. The others remained 
motionless, listening. 

The tapping on the other end began again. Clarke felt 
weak with elation. His head swam as he listened. 

One . . . two . . . three . . . four . . . five ... six ... 

"Oh, God!" An answer. He got through! 

. . . seven . . . eight . . . nine . . . ten . . . eleven . . . 
twelve . . . thirteen . . . 

Clarke could not speak. Thirteen taps for an answer! 
He flung the water can to the ground and heard it bounce 
along the jagged rock. The sound echoed hollowly in the 

122 Miracle at Springhill 

"They don't hear us! They don't know we're here!" 
Clarke was close to tears. He crawled back, talking as he 
moved. "They tapped six times. You heard it. Six times! 
I answered back six times. You heard me do it. They 
tapped back thirteen times. Thirteen! It means they can't 
hear us. They think everybody in here is dead!" He lay 
back on the ground and began to sob. 

Clarke's despair spread. Even Maurice Ruddick re- 
mained silent, absorbed in his own thoughts. Garnie was 
right. No one knew they were there. It was hopeless. The 
tapping was probably only some of the rescue crews pick- 
ing their way through the debris. They were a long way 
off. They didn't seem to be in any hurry. 

Ruddick could still taste the bark. A hell of a way to die, 
he thought. Eating wood. 

Later, Ruddick twisted on his side and looked at his 
watch. It was 4:00 P.M. He was hungrier than he had ever 
thought it possible to be. He pressed his hands to his 
stomach until it hurt, trying to drive the hunger pains 
away. He rubbed his mouth with his grimy fist, loosening 
some of the dirt caked at the corners. He tried to spit out 
some of the dust. Nothing came out and he gagged. 

Except for the sound of Percy Rector breathing, there 
was silence everywhere. Ruddick moved over to Rector 
and patted his leg. When he felt the miner's body, a shiver 
ran through him, tingling his beard and raising the hairs 
on the back of his neck. Rector was getting cold! 

"Perce is getting cold!" Ruddick shouted loudly. The 
men who were half-dozing, awoke. "He's getting cold!" 
Ruddick exclaimed again. "And it's over eighty in this 
stinking hole!" 

"No Further Hope' 123 

The men felt the presence of death all about them. At 
four- twenty in the afternoon, they heard Percy Rector 
inhale deeply and exhale, his breath hissing through 
clenched teeth. He did not inhale again. 


"Come and Get Us" 

Wednesday began as a routine day, if any day filled with 
despair and constant search for the dead can be con- 
sidered routine. The rain of the day before had turned to 
drizzle, and thin fog hung in the air like a gossamer 

During the morning, more bodies had been brought to 
the surface, the result of the long backbreaking hours of 
the rescue crews. The toll now stood at eighty-one res- 
cued (all during the first hours following the bump), 
twenty-six dead (brought to the surface during the next 
six days), and sixty-seven still missing, unaccounted for, 
and presumed dead. 

On this morning, "barefaced" men reported the 13,800- 
foot level cleared of all bodies. Nothing was left in this 
section but twisted rails, shattered walls, and smashed 
lunch pails and water cans. The only life was in the huge, 
gray mine rats who somehow sensed they would no longer 
be disturbed by men. 


"Come and Get Us" 125 

Draegermen, ashen faced from long hours of toil and 
little sleep, continued to push forward in the pits. At this 
time the 13,000 level was still seventy agonizing feet away. 
The work went on methodically, slowly. There were 
bodies to bring out for burial, bodies taken from the earth 
to be returned to the earth. The crews now began to think 
of themselves as retrievers of the dead. The urgency of 
their original mission, when it was hoped men might be 
found alive, had long since gone. 

Below ground, to twelve gaunt men, hope was now a 
forlorn word. Not one of them could survive much longer 
and each of them knew it. It might be a matter of hours, 
or a day at the most, before they would succumb, one by 
one, to the gnawing hunger and thirst. 

Each had begun to give himself up to God, awaiting 
the inevitable end. Each had tried to sleep, hoping that 
death would come silently, mercifully. But the subcon- 
scious will to survive was too great. They could not sleep. 

Wilfred Hunter felt that he had to make one more visit 
to the body he believed was his brother, Frank. He wanted 
to say goodbye. Silently he slid away from the others. It 
was the longest trip he had ever made. He stopped re- 
peatedly on the way, to gasp for a breath or to cough and 
spit. His stomach was in pain. Hot irons stabbed his chest. 

When he reached the body he could scarcely speak. His 
mouth felt full of feathers. It was almost impossible to 

The stench from the decaying body was awful. Wilfred 
sat on the mine floor and tried to breathe through his 
mouth. That way, he figured, the smell would not be so 

126 Miracle at Springhill 

"I can't come back any more, Frank," he said, looking 
up to where the body was suspended from the roof. "I 
can't make it." He paused and sat staring into the black- 
ness. "Wherever you are, I'll be with you soon. I guess 
it was meant for us to be together." Wilfred rested, then 
pulled himself painfully to his knees. His entire body 
ached and there was a terrible shooting pain in his leg. 
"Goodbye, Frank," he whispered. Then he began the slow, 
agonizing crawl back to where the others were awaiting 

Levi Milley could barely speak. He wanted to call en- 
couragement to Joe McDonald, whose broken hip was 
becoming increasingly painful. Teddy Michniak, despite 
his broken shoulder, was by McDonald's side, still whis- 
pering to him, still trying to console him. 

Levi's lips were swollen and cracked. Each time he ran 
his tongue over them it hurt more. But he did it anyway. 
He choked when he tried to swallow. "Wednesday, how 
much longer?" It was not a question of how much longer 
he would have to wait for rescue. It was how much longer 
he would stay alive. 

The other men had nothing to discuss now. No one 
acknowledged the fact that it was Wednesday. What 
difference would it make? If they survived until the next 
afternoon, it would be one full week spent nearly a mile 
in the ground. 

Caleb Rushton was sucking on a small piece of coal, 
trying to moisten his mouth. He had already eaten a piece 
but it did not relieve his hunger. There was nothing left 
to do but wait. His voice cracked when he spoke. "Boys, 

"Come and Get Us" 127 

I guess there isn't much time left for us, I'd like to say a 
prayer for us all." 

"Can God hear us way down here?" Milley asked. He 
knew better, but he said it in despair. 

The men remained silent as Rushton rose to one knee 
and bowed his head. Despite the dark, he closed his eyes. 
"O God, merciful and compassionate, Who art ever ready 
to hear the prayers of those who put their trust in Thee; 
graciously hearken to us who call upon Thee, and grant 
us Thy help in this our need; thiough Jesus Christ our 

He did not move from his place for a full minute, as 
silence settled over the twelve men. At this moment, they 
had all given themselves up to their Maker. 

As they settled down to await the end, the thumping 
noise and the vibrations began again. 

On the other side of the rock barrier Maurice Ruddick 
knew it was Wednesday morning. His watch had helped 
him keep track of the passage of time. Still shining in the 
dark, it somehow brought him comfort. Maybe, when they 
found his body, if they ever did, someone would bring the 
watch to his home. It would be something for his kids to 
remember him by. 

Garnet Clarke was now twenty-nine years and two days 
old. He felt fortunate to have lived beyond his birthday. 
But he had an idea that was disturbing to him. This morn- 
ing, he decided, he would tell the others about it. He had 
made up his mind what he would do. 

Doug Jewkes could not stop talking about Seven-Up. 
He wanted a case of pop, ice cold, he said. He did not 

128 Miracle at Springhill 

know why he had this craving for Seven-Up and not for 
water. He only knew that it was all he wanted. 

"If only he wouldn't mention it out loud," Garnet 
Clarke reflected. "It makes it worse for all of us/' His 
mouth was hot and his throat burned. "The hell with it, 
Tin gonna try it/' he said half -aloud. He had already made 
up his mind. "Boys/' he began uncertainly, not knowing 
exactly how to begin. "Boys," he repeated, "we can eat 
the bark to put something in our stomachs, but it isn't 
enough. We need fluids . . ." He purposely did not men- 
tion water. Only fluids. 

The others merely listened. 

"We could at least dip the bark in it . . ." He paused 
again, waiting for a reaction or a protest that might dis- 
suade him. None came and his temper rose. "Damn it!" he 
exclaimed. "You guys know what I mean. I don't know 
about you but I can't take it any more. IVe got fluids in 
my body that are going to waste. I'm gonna use them." 
Without hesitating any further, he found a water can 
and filled it. 

It took another hour but, one by one, each man fol- 
lowed suit, using water cans and empty lunch boxes. They 
felt disgusted with themselves but they did not talk about 
it. Each man consoled himself with the knowledge that 
Clarke was right. Clarke's idea might keep them alive 
another day. 

Later, Herb Pepperdine crawled away from the others. 
As he left, he told them, "I'm gonna scout around a little 
and see if I can find anything." The act of dipping pieces 
of bark into the fluid had made him desperate. 

In half an hour he was back, breathless and exuberant. 

"Come and Get Us" 129 

Even before he reached the others, he called out to them. 
"I found something!" 

The men thought of a sandwich or a full can of water. 

"I found a candy bara whole candy bar!" he bellowed. 
An ordinary, everyday item had taken on tremendous 
importance. "J ust a little way from here," he continued 
excitedly, as proud of himself as if he had returned with a 
side of beef. He sat down and spoke rapidly, the words 
tumbling from his mouth. "I was feeling around on the 
ground and my hand touched something smooth. I didn't 
know what the hell it was. I picked it up and smelled it. 
It was a bar. It was still in the wrapper. A big one. The 
ten cent kind!" Pepperdine groped his way over to Rud- 
dick and handed him his prize. "Here, Maurice, divide it." 
Then he settled back in the blackness to catch his breath 
and rest. He had a wide, satisfied grin on his face. 

"Funny, isn't it?" Clarke said, while Ruddick broke the 
bar into seven pieces. "I remember w)ien I ate all the bars 
I wanted at my cousin's store. Most of the time I didn't 
even have to pay for them." 

"You don't have to pay for this one, either," Levi Milley 
answered. His spirits had lifted considerably with the 
story of Pepperdine's discovery. The candy would take 
that awful taste out of his mouth. 

Ruddick handed each man his small portion. They ate 
slowly, savoring the flavor, reluctant to swallow. 

But when they finished, the chocolate only increased 
their thirst. 

At 11:00 A.M., rescue workers estimated they were still 
sixty feet from the 13,000-foot level. They chipped at a 

130 Miracle at Springhill 

corner of a wall of coal and stone that refused to come 

Earl Wood cursed softly under his breath as his pick 
bit into the wall. He held the tool tightly in his big hands, 
pushing it into the debris. Beads of perspiration stood out 
on his blackened brow. He was flat on his stomach, and 
had worked in this punishing position for the past five 

In the narrow shaft, lights bobbed from the helmets 
of the men in the line behind him, men who were method- 
ically, tiredly, chipping away, looking for an opening that 
would take them to the 13,000 level. 

Wood smashed his pick into the wall again. All at 
once the debris crumbled and gave way with a roar. A 
great cloud of dust and hot air seared his eyes and filled 
his mouth and nostrils. 

"Gas!" Wood cried out in panic, sliding hastily away 
from the opening. He collided with Warren Hunter, who 
had been working behind him. "Gas!" Wood cried again, 
and both men backed away. 

The others stopped work and the dozen men in the 
narrow passage moved back some thirty-five feet into the 
larger space of the level. They waited for the dust to 
settle, afraid to breathe. They sat hunched on the ground 
and took this time to remove their water cans from their 
belts and wash some of the dust from their mouths. They 
took big, refreshing drinks. It was hot, tiring work, and 
they were thirsty. 

"Maybe I punched through," Wood suggested hope- 
fully. He could not tell. The dust continued to swirl 
around the area where his pick had struck. 

The rescuers continued to wait. Slowly the dust cleared. 

"Come and Get Us" 131 

Bob Cummings, the overman, crawled ahead and made a 
quick test for gas. The air was safe. He reported that 
Wood's pick had uncovered the broken end of a length 
of compressed air pipe. 

Wood went up to investigate the end of the six inch 
steel pipe protruding through the debris. "That's what 
caused the dust/' he said. The air trapped in the clogged 
pipe had rushed out when the pick struck it and loosened 
the dirt. 

Some of the other workers crowded up and took turns 
looking at the pipe. They had seen pipes like this thou- 
sands of times before. But this one was different. This one 
led to the 13,000-foot level. If only they could get in the 
pipe and slide right through, one of the men remarked. 

Suddenly a fragment of a word startled Wood. 

From somewhere, he heard: ". . . en." Nothing more. 

"What?" he asked, turning to Percy Weatherbee, who 
was now directly behind him. 

"I didn't say anything," Weatherbee replied. 

"What is it?" Wood shouted to the others. "Who 

Arnold Reese had not said anything, he informed Wood. 
Neither had George Hodges or George Scott. 

"Probably somebody down the level where we came in," 
Wood reasoned. "Sound travels funny in here." He dis- 
missed it from his mind. 

At the other end of the pipe, in the 13,000-foot level, 
twelve men were waiting now for death. 

At noontime, Joe McDonald whispered to Teddy Mich- 
niak, "My leg is hurting again." 

Michniak's shoulder ached and he could not turn his 

132 Miracle at Springhill 

head easily. The two men remained near each other. 

"We've got to take it easy and keep hoping/' Michniak 
told McDonald. "But it all seems so damn hopeless/' 

"I've tried not to complain/' McDonald answered. "It 
doesn't do any good. It hurts real bad now." He gritted his 
teeth, determined not to mention his leg again. 

Bowman Maddison was listening hard for something. 
He did hot know what, but he had the strange feeling 
that there were sounds in the distance. They did not sound 
like the familiar noises the rats made scurrying around 
in their search for food. Still, he thought, they were 
scratchings. A shudder ran through him. If he died, the 
rats would get him. They wouldn't leave much to identify. 
But what the hell difference did it make when he was 

Gorley Kempt listened to the sounds, too. He could 
not understand what caused them. He nudged Harold 
Brine. "Hear that?" 

"I've been listening." 

"What do you think it is?" 

"I'm not sure," Brine answered. "At times it sounds like 
chipping. Then, I think I can make out the sound of some- 
thing like a fan." He shrugged his shoulders. "But I know 
it couldn't be." 

"Sometimes it sounds like it's coming from the air pipe," 
Kempt replied. "Want to crawl over with me? Maybe we 
can hear it better." 

"Why not?" Brine said. 

Together, Kempt and Brine moved across the floor to 
the broken pipe. They could wait there just as easily as 
anywhere else, they agreed. 

"Come and Get Us" 133 

At 1:45 P.M., Chief Mine Surveyor Blair Phillips came 
into the tunnel to test the air's gas content. It was purely 
routine, one of his jobs even when the mine was working. 

Phillips inserted a bottle into the mouth of the un- 
covered pipe. Chemicals in the bottle would react and 
change color if the air were mixed with gas. He hesitated 
for a moment. Still about sixty feet from the 13,000 level, 
he estimated. He knew that men were unaccounted for 
at this level. If the bottle showed a high percentage of 
gas, then there would be nothing to do but send word to 
the surface. 

He bent over the pipe, arched his head so the light 
from his helmet would shine on the opening. He moved 
the bottle carefully toward the pipe. 

Harold Brine was listening intently at the other end. 
Suddenly he stiffened. "Gorley," he called. "Look!" 

Kempt, who had been resting witji his eyes shut, came 
alert. "What the hell is it?" 

"The pipe. The pipe!" Brine stammered. 

Kempt scurried closer for a look. 

Brine's heart was beating wildly. "I'm not sure what it 
is. Is it a light or some kind of crazy reflection?" 

Kempt slid toward the pipe opening. "How can you 
have a reflection in the dark?" Then he saw it: a tiny pin- 
point of light stabbing through the blackness of the pit. 

"It's a light," he whispered hoarsely to Brine. He did 
not dare yell, afraid that the light might disappear. A 
pinpoint of light in the darkness! It was unbelievable. 
Where was it coming from? He put his ear to the opening 
of the pipe. 

134 Miracle at Springhill 

"I hear sounds. I can make out voices!" he shouted to 
Brine who was beside him. This time the others heard. 

They crawled from their places, the places they had 
selected to die. They forgot their aches, their hunger, and 
their thirst. 

Only Joe McDonald could not move. He strained his 
eyes trying to pierce the darkness to see the light. 

"Voices!" Kempt screamed. "There's voices coming 
through the pipe!" 

"Yell into the pipe. Try and make them hear us." 

"There are twelve of us here," Kempt called with every 
bit of strength he could muster. "Come and get us!" 


"Stay Where You Arc!' 

Blair Phillips stiffened. Tiny shivers ran up his back, lift- 
ing the hair on his neck. He jerked the bottle away from 
the pipe while the words rang in his ears. His heart raced 
and pounded, his breath grew short. "Stay where you are! 
We'll come as quickly as possible," lie shouted back. 

"They're here! They're here! They found us!" Gorley 
Kempt's voice was shrill. 

Life flowed back into twelve men. Their despair of 
only a moment ago had now turned to delirium. They 
laughed and hugged one another, then wept like babies 
in the dark. 

Harold Brine shoved his way to the pipe. "For God's 
sake come and get us!" he screeched. The control he had 
manifested since his entombment was now gone. He could 
not keep back the sobs. 

"We made it! We made it! We're gonna get out of this 
rat trap!" Bowman Maddison yelled. He pounced on Levi 


136 Miracle at Springhill 

Milley in his exuberance and both men fell to the floor, 
embracing each other. 

For the moment, the men forgot where they were. They 
tried to stand erect, banging their heads on the roof but 
scarcely noticing it. Then Maddison sobered. 

He called out several times to the others, trying to make 
himself heard above the din. "Quiet down!" he finally had 
to yell. "Quiet down!" 

The men grew silent. 

"Let two of the boys do the talking through the pipe/' 
Maddison said. "We'll never get out of here if we keep 
this up. We'll celebrate later." 

Kempt and Brine remained by the pipe. Kempt called 
up again. "Don't forget we're alive in here. How about 
some water?" 

Blair Phillips was too excited to answer Kempt's re- 
quest. And he had but two thoughts. First, the crews must 
get through the wall of stone and coal as quickly as hu- 
manly possible. Second, word must be sent immediately 
to the surface. 

He called to one of his crew. "Get back as fast as you 
can. Tell them at 7,800 to call up to the surface. Tell them 
there's twelve men alive at 13,000." 

A rescue worker moved off in a crouch, as fast as he 
could go along the three-foot-high tunnel, to carry the 
news to the world. 

Phillips leaned into the pipe once more. "Call out your 
names. Who's down there?" His heart raced as he waited 
for the reply. 

"Gorley Kempt . . . Harold Brine . . . Wilfred Hunter 
. . . Caleb Rushton . . . Joe McDonald . . . Larry Lead- 

"Stay Where You Are!" 137 

better . . . Hughie Guthro . . . Teddy Michniak . . . Levi 
Milley . . . Eldred Lowther . . . Bowsie Maddison . . . Joe 
Holloway . . ." Kempt's voice sounded proud as he called 
out the names of the men who had made it. But he didn't 
stop talking. "Joe McDonald's got a busted leg. Teddy 
Michniak's arm is bad." Finally he paused and, with a 
note of exultation in his voice, said, "But we're in pretty 
good shape. Just get us the hell out of here!" 

"Take over," Phillips called to Earl Wood. "I'm going 
up top with the names." 

"Can you remember them?" Wood asked. 

"Every blessed one of them," Phillips grinned. "Every 
blessed one of them!" He scurried down the tunnel toward 
the slope that would take him to the surface. The top of 
his helmet just cleared the roof as he hopped over timbers 
and rails. 

"Hold on boys," Wood called below. He could think of 
nothing more to say. What could he tell these men after 
what they had already been through? 

Percy Weatherbee edged close to Wood. "Let me talk 
to them. Kempt is my nephew." Wood moved aside and 
Weatherbee put his mouth to the pipe. "Gorley. Gorley, 
how are you?" he called. 

Kempt could not believe it. He shivered when he rec- 
ognized his uncle's voice. "Percy! I'm all right you son- 
of-a-gun. We're all all right. Just come and get us out of 

Weatherbee was too overcome with emotion to carry 
on the conversation. There were many questions he 
wanted to ask but the words would not come. And he 
found, without embarrassment, that he was crying in front 
of the others. 

138 Miracle at Springhill 

George Scott moved up to the pipe to yell words of 
encouragement in his Scottish burr. 

"Take the apples out of your mouth and talk English!" 
Kempt yelled back. Humor had returned to a man who 
had been perched on the brink of death only minutes 

Scott laughed and cried. 

George Hodges shoved Scott aside. His brother-in-law, 
Harold Brine, was alive! "Harold, are you O.K.?" Hodges 
called. "This is George. George Hodges!" 

"He's fine. We're all fine," Kempt answered. He called 
to Brine. "Get over here. Someone wants to talk to you." 

The men had momentarily forgotten their thirst. They 
knew nothing except that someone was aware they were 
alive. They would get out eat fooddrink water and 
breathe fresh air. 

Harold Brine could barely bring himself to speak. 
"George, it's Harold," he said. "I'm all right." The excite- 
ment was too great for him to think to ask about his 

"Thank God," Hodges cried as he moved back from the 
pipe and let Wood take over again. 

"It's gonna be a while before we can get through to 
you," Wood called. "It's almost solid wall between us, 
about sixty feet. Stay put." 

"We can't go anyplace. If we could we would have been 
out long ago," Kempt joked. The men laughed. Anything, 
even slightly funny, seemed to send them into hysteria 

Levi Milley had a suggestion. "We're gonna have a long 
wait before they get to us. Just let's take it easy. We'll 
leave Gorley and Harold at the pipe." 

"Stay Where You Are!" 139 

"You stay too," Maddison said. 

"O.K.," Milley agreed. "Well all spell each other." 

Shortly after 2:00 P.M., the morning drizzle had settled 
into a steady rain. Most of the townspeople stayed home; 
it was easier to wait there for the bad news. 

When Blair Phillips reached the 7,800-foot level, he 
telephoned the names of the survivors. Seconds later, 
word was flashed to the surface that twelve men were 
alive at the 13,000-foot level. In a few minutes the town 
came to life. 

When the telephone rang at Margaret Guthro's house, 
she walked slowly, disconsolately, to answer it. Her 
brother, Bud, had spent the morning putting in the front 
step so things would be easier at the funeral. It was only 
a matter of time, she knew, before Hughie's body would 
be found and brought to the surface. Then the funeral. 
Each blow of Bud's hammer had been like the sealing of 
a coffin, had torn at her emotions until she actually be- 
came physically sick and vomited in the bathroom. 

The moment Margaret picked up the telephone she 
heard Loretta Holloway shout. "Margie, Margie! They've 
found twelve men alive! Joe and Hughie are with them 
and they're all right!" 

Margaret Guthro flew into a rage. For almost a week 
she had been driven frantic by wild rumors. Finally, she 
had succeeded in facing the agonizing fact that Hughie 
was dead. This morning, when Bud was building the step, 
she had turned off the radio and television. She did not 
want to hear any more rumors that men were found alive. 

140 Miracle at Springhill 

"Don't call me with stories like this!" she yelled before 
slamming the receiver into the cradle. Bitter tears flowed 
as she buried her face in her arms and sobbed. 

Moments later, Mr. Tapper's car pulled up in front of 
her house. This time, he was not bringing cookies from 
the church. He ran from the car to the front door. 

Margaret wiped her eyes. Her hands were wet with 
tears when she answered the door. 

Tupper did not wait for her to speak. "Margie, Margie!" 
he shouted. "Hughie's alive!" 

All at once it struck her. It wasn't Loretta passing on a 
rumor. Mr. Tupper was telling her the very same thing! 
She fell into his arms, laughing and sobbing. 

Bud was in the back yard cleaning up. He had not 
heard the telephone ring, but he heard the minister's car 
pull up and he could hear the laughing and crying. 

"Hughie's alive!" Margaret cried out. 

Bud grinned. "I'd better get rid of these," he said. He 
was still carrying a piece of lumber and a handful of nails. 
"What would Hughie think if I left the place a mess?" 

Tupper left to deliver the good news to others. 

Margaret switched on the television set and went into 
the kitchen to whip up a pan of ham and eggs for herself 
and her brother. All at once she was hungry. Soon she 
would be preparing meals for her husband. Things were 
getting back to normal. 

Not far away, Velda Milley was making lunch for her- 
self and Judy when the telephone rang. She, too, had 
turned off the radio and television sets. She did not want 
to hear any more news. 

"Stay Where You Are!" 141 

"Get that, will you dear?" she called to Judy. *Tm busy." 

Judy got up from the couch to answer the telephone. 
Reverend Earle DeLong of the United Baptist Church 
identified himself. 

"Yes?" Judy said. 

"Tell your mother to get ready." The minister did not 
know how to begin, how to break the news. His own heart 
was racing. "Tell your mother to get ready," he repeated. 
Then he quickly blurted out the news. "They found 
twelve men alive. Your father is with them!" 

At first Judy did not understand the message. "What 
happened to Daddy?" she asked fearfully. She was expect- 
ing bad news. It was impossible that he could be alive. 
At the moment she thought twelve more bodies had been 
located in the pit. 

"He's alive. They found him with some other men," the 
minister replied. 

"Are you sure it's Daddy?" She waited breathlessly for 
the response. 

"Yes dear, I'm sure." He spoke quietly this time. 

Judy put down the receiver. She did not even remem- 
ber to say "thank you" or "goodbye." She raced to the 

Velda was standing in the doorway of the room, nerv- 
ously wiping her hands on her apron. She had heard only 
snatches of the telephone conversation and had grown 
cold and weak when she heard her daughter ask, "Are 
you sure it's Daddy?" It could mean only one thing: Levi 
was found dead. 

"Momma, Momma! Daddy's alive! He's alive!" The 
words tumbled from the mouth of the excited girl. "That 

142 Miracle at Springhill 

was Mr. DeLong. He said Daddy's alive! They found 
twelve men! Daddy's with them!" 
She ran into her mother's arms. 

It took only minutes for the news to spread through the 
town. Church bells rang. Automobiles roared up and 
down the streets, horns blasting as if it were New Year's 
Eve. The drivers yelled to anyone who would listen: 
"Twelve alive! Twelve alive!" 

Stores were abandoned as proprietors and customers 
raced down Main Street to the mine grounds. They 
sloshed through the mud, ignoring the rain, eager to get 
to the pithead. No one realized that the men would not 
yet be coming to the surface. 

Zora Maddison, Bowman's fourteen-year-old daughter, 
was pushed and shoved along in the throng. Who were 
the men alive? No one was quite sure. She ran back and 
forth, trying vainly to stop someone, anyone, who could 
give her news. More than one hundred children were in 
the Lamp House when the girl raced in. 

A man was calling out the survivors' names. The girl 
listened, standing on her toes to watch the man's mouth. 
She half -heard, half-saw, his lips form the names: "Joe 
McDonald . . . Levi Milley . . . Gorley Kempt . . . Bow- 
man Maddison . . ." 

"Daddy's alive! He said 'Bowman Maddison/ That's my 
father!" For the first time since the bump, the girl turned 
and ran home. Now she could tell her mother the news 
she promised she would bring. 

Within minutes after the word was relayed that twelve 

"Stay Where You Are!" 143 

men had been found alive, Dr. J. Arnold Burden of All 
Saints Hospital appeared at the office of Mine Manager 
George Calder. The doctor, a short, wiry man, knew the 
workings below. He had helped finance his medical edu- 
cation by working for the mine company. Now he was 
dressed to enter the mine. 

"Tin ready to go down, George/' the doctor told Calder. 
Both men were smiling for the first time in almost a week. 

"The sooner the better/' Calder replied, patting the 
doctor on the shoulder. "You know contact was made 
through an air pipe, don't you?" 

"I guess a dozen people told me that on the way over 
here/' He stopped for a moment, trying to plan. "I've been 
thinking/' he said. "Can you get a length of copper pipe. 
Half-inch? Clean? We could try to pass it down through 
the air pipe and maybe send some water and soup down 
to the boys while they wait." 

"Damn good idea," Calder agreed. "Damn good/' He 
paused to picture in his mind the particular area where 
contact was made. "It's on a downslope and the stuff will 
flow right down to them. Til make arrangements." 

"Fine/' Dr. Burden said. "Send the pipe down as soon 
as you can. I'm going below now." 

The doctor left the office and walked in the rain to the 
pithead, waving greetings to the crowd. 

At 4:30 P.M., rescue crews reported that they were still 
a heartbreaking forty feet away from the twelve men. 
Slowly, "barefaced" men chipped away at the stone and 
coal. There was no time to gouge out a large hole in the 
wall. A small tunnel, big enough to squeeze a body 
through, would be enough. The men ignored the sweat 

144 Miracle at Springhill 

that poured from their bodies as they worked flat on their 
stomachs, pushing through the wall. 

At the same time, Police Chief MacDonald was busy 
on Main Street, clearing off all unnecessary vehicles. Only 
ambulances, police cars, and the press were to be allowed 
on the street. The chief conferred with civil defense au- 
thorities and men were posted at every street intersecting 
Main Street on the way to the hospital, to keep the roads 

The chief ordered rope barriers set up around the pit- 
head, with local police and Royal Canadian Mounted 
Police on hand to keep the eager crowd from pressing 
forward and hampering the work of the now exuberant 
rescue crews. 

At 6:30 P.M., rescue workers again sent word to the 
surface. They were now thirty-five feet from the trapped 
men. They had been able to make only five feet of prog- 
ress in the past two hours. Fresh crews were sent down 
to spell the grimy and sweaty men. The original crews 
did not want to leave. They wanted to be there when the 
breakthrough was made. 

All Saints Hospital was buzzing with activity. 

When they received the word, Administrator Stanley 
Tibbetts and Superintendent of Nurses Rebeccah Har- 
greaves held a hurried consultation. 

"We've got to make room for twelve men/' Tibbetts 
said. "That means moving some of the men injured last 
Thursday. Well put them in the armory." 

"When will they be coming in?" Nurse Hargreaves 

"Stay Where You Are!" 145 

"I don't know for sure. Probably not for quite a few 
hours. You know Dr. Burden is going down to talk to 
them. He'll know what to do/' 

"We should get started right away, though," the nurse 

"Right. Have the supply of blood plasma checked and 
ready. We still don't know what shape the men are in." 

They hurried to get things prepared. 

Men who had been brought in on the first night of the 
bump were glad to give up their beds in the hospital and 
be transferred to the armory. It meant that some of their 
buddies were coining back from the dead. 

At 9:30 P.M., the "barefaced" men had found new 
strength below ground. They worked and smashed at the 
wall. Perspiration soaked through their shirts, but they 
were now only twenty-five feet away from the break- 
through. They paused, long enough to gulp from their 
water cans, then they smashed again at the wall. When 
enough coal and rock gave way, they filled the buckets 
and passed them down the line for the men at the end to 

Inch by inch, they bored through the wall. When the 
man in front could no longer lift his arms, he took his 
place at the end of the line and dumped the buckets of 
rock and coal. Everyone moved up to take his whacks 
at the barrier. 

Once more fresh crews were sent down. Dr. Burden 
arrived with them and helped pass the bucket, working 
his own way up to the front of the line. He moved to the 
air pipe and called through. "Hello. This is Dr. Burden." 

146 Miracle at Springhill 

"Hello doctor/' Gorley Kempt's voice came back, "Good 
to hear you." 

The doctor called again. "Get the men to get some 
water cans and bring them to you. We're going to try to 
send some water down through the pipe. Well let you 
know when/' 

"We sure could use it, doctor/' 

"In the meantime, I've got some instructions for you," 
the doctor continued. "Above all, remember, when you 
get your water can full, don't drink it all at once. Under- 
stand? You'll get violently ill. I know it's going to be diffi- 
cult, but you've got to take one mouthful only. Swallow 
slowly. Then count to five hundred before you take an- 
other. Do you understand?" 

"Did you say five hundred?" Kempt asked. 

"Yes, that's right. Five hundred." 

"Jesus, doctor," Kempt called, laughing, "some of the 
guys here can't count to five hundred!" 

"I mean it, Gorley. Don't gulp it down when it comes." 

"O.K., O.K., just send it." 

"It'll be here in a while." 

Almost as if on signal, a crew of men arrived with the 
half-inch copper tubing. They crawled up to Dr. Burden. 

"We're going to insert a copper tube through the pipe 
now," the doctor informed Kempt. "Call back when it 
comes through." 

The men began to snake the tubing through the air 
pipe, slowly, carefully, to be sure that a stray fragment of 
coal or rock would not block it. 

At the other end, Kempt waited. He held his hand over 
the pipe opening, just to feel the tubing when it came 

"Stay Where You Are!" 147 

The gush of air that whooshed through when Earl 
Wood's pick first struck the pipe had cleared it and the 
tubing went through easily. 

Kempt saw it, first a wiggle, then a piece of metal he 
could touch. "I can feel the end here/' He scraped a space 
beneath the life-giving tube, careful not to touch it. 

"Good/* the doctor answered. "Now just wait at the 
pipe and I'll let you know when the water's coming. Did 
you get the water cans?" 

"We're all ready and waiting." Kempt was almost 
frantic with excitement. "Doctor," he called, "the guys 
here want to know what the weather is like outside." 

T> ** 

It s raining. 

"The sun was shining when we came in. It'll be good to 
see rain." 

"Don't talk too much," the doctor cautioned. "Take it 
easy and . . . hold on . . ." 

At that moment two men appeared, carefully carrying a 
bucket of cool water. 

The doctor looked back, approvingly, then leaned again 
to the tube. 

"Get ready with your water cans." 

Gorley Kempt placed a can at the bottom of the tubing. 

Dr. Burden, helped by another man, lifted the water 
bucket and poured its precious contents through the half- 
inch tube. It gushed through, filled the water can, and 
splashed onto the mine floor. 

"Hold up! For God's sake, I'm getting all wet!" Gorley 
Kempt's trousers were soaked through. The fresh, cool 
water felt good on his skin, but after all these hours, the 
waste of water seemed somehow to be a sin. 

Dr. Burden pulled the bucket away from the pipe. The 

148 Miracle at Springhill 

doctor put his mouth close to the opening. "Remember, 
count to five hundred after each drink." 

Kempt took a quick mouthful and passed the can to 
Harold Brine, who shook it first, just to hear the pleasant 
sound of water splashing. Brine held it to his lips and 
drank. Tears flowed down his cheeks and he could taste 
the salt at the corners of his mouth. In the darkness, he 
passed the can to Levi Milley. 

Someone handed Kempt another empty water can. He 
called up, "Send some more water." 

The water flowed through again, this time more slowly, 
and Kempt filled the second can. "O.K., that's enough for 
now," he called. The water stopped. 

Kempt handed the can to Milley. "Make sure Joe and 
Teddy get this." In all the excitement, he still remembered 
that Joe McDonald and Teddy Michniak were together. 
Joe could not move and Teddy remained faithfully by his 
side. Milley moved off in the darkness, clutching the can. 

Count? None of the men stopped to count to five hun- 
dred. Some started to, but they could not wait for their 
second drink. The second can was soon emptied. 

"We're out of water," Kempt hollered up the pipe. 
"Send us some more." 

"Nothing doing, Gorley," the doctor answered. "YouVe 
all had enough for now. I know you didn't count to five 
hundred. You couldn't have." 

"No, we didn't count, doctor. We just couldn't wait." 

"Well, I can't say that I blame you. But don't move 
about too much now. How do you feel? Any bad effects 
from the water?" 

"No. I feel fine. Still thirsty, though." Kempt called. 
He asked around. "The others are O.K., too." 

"Stay Where You Are!" 149 

"Tell them we'll send some good hot coffee down in a 
little while/' 

At 11:00 P.M., rescue crews were ten feet away. They 
hacked ceaselessly at the wall, moving closer, ever closer 
to the twelve men. 

Coffee, heavily sugared and steaming hot, was sent 
down through the pipe, and again Gorley Kempt's 
trousers were soaked through as the liquid overflowed the 
water can. 

At 11:55 P.M., Dr. Burden called down the pipe. "How 
would you fellows like some soup?" 

"What kind?" Kempt joked. 

"This is no restaurant!" The doctor turned to the rescue 
men. "Can you imagine that? Dying and starving for more 
than six days, and now they want to know what kind of 
soup!" There was a grin on his face as he yelled down the 
pipe, "Tomato soup, take it or leave it!" 

"We'll take it, we'll take it! I was ofcly kidding. But for 
Christ's sake, don't soak me again. I want to look my best 
when I get out!" Goose pimples prickled at Kempt's black 
beard. He still could not believe they were saved. 

The tomato soup was piped to the men and, for the 
third time, Kempt's trousers were soaked. He cursed 
softly, but without malice. "The bump didn't kill me, but 
it looks like I'm gonna drown in here instead!" He filled 
two water cans with soup. Once more the men drank 
without counting to five hundred. They did not get sick. 

Dr. John R. Ryan of Springhill and Dr. Kenneth Gass of 
Pugwash joined Dr. Burden below ground. They brought 
more medical supplies for the moment when the final 
breakthrough would be achieved. 

150 Miracle at Springhill 

Now it was like a circus. At 12:10 A.M., rescue men re- 
ported that they were only five feet away. Word was 
flashed to the surface. The waiting crowd grew tense. 

At 12:30 rescuers smashed through the final foot of 
stone and coal. One by one, they crawled through the 
opening in the wall, lights flashing in the darkness. 

Kempt saw them first. He grabbed the man nearest him 
and hugged and kissed him. Rescued and rescuers wept 
silently together. 

Dr. Burden's voice rang clearly through the shaft. 
"Don't waste any time/' he ordered. He crawled directly 
to Joe McDonald and Teddy Michniak, and began to 
examine the injured men. 

Doctors Ryan and Gass made superficial examinations 
of the others, then ordered blindfolds placed across their 

"What the hell's that for?" Kempt asked as he was 
lifted, blindfolded, onto a stretcher. 

"To keep the glare of floodlights on the surface from 
injuring your eyes," Dr. Ryan said. "You've been in com- 
plete darkness for so long we don't know but what the 
sudden light might hurt them." 

Kempt ripped away the blindfold. "No offense, doctor," 
he apologized. "But that's just it. I've been in the dark 

since last Thursday. I'm not going upstairs in the dark, 


On the surface, the crowd could feel the tension that 
increased almost to hysteria when Dr. J.G.B. Lynch, 
seventy-four-year-old medical officer of the Dominion 
Steel and Coal Corporation, ordered the floodlights 
dimmed. He knew the miners. He knew that most of them 

"Stay Where You Are!" 151 

would do exactly as Gorley Kempt had done with his 

At 3:25 A.M., a grimy rescue worker appeared at the 
pithead, his face wreathed in a beautiful smile. He waved 
excitedly to an ambulance driver to back his vehicle 
closer. "Gorley Kempfs on the way up!" he yelled. A mur- 
mur swept the crowd. 

A stretcher, borne by two men, was framed suddenly 
at the entrance of the mine. The crowd surged forward, 
eager to catch a glimpse of the man who had been 
snatched from the bowels of the earth. 

Kempt lifted himself to one elbow on the stretcher and 
waved, his teeth flashing white through a face as black 
as the rain-soaked ground. Then Kempt slumped back, 
exhausted by his show of bravado. 

A white-coated driver opened the back door of the 
ambulance and the stretcher was lifted gently into the 
vehicle. The driver closed the door, raced around the side 
of the ambulance and into the driver's seat. Police waved 
the crowd back as the mud-splattered ambulance, its 
siren wide open, sped away from the mine. 

Joe McDonald was eased onto a stretcher below ground. 
Each movement jarred his body and tore at his hip, where 
the bone protruded. He did not cry out, but simply 
whispered to Dr. Burden, "It hurts." Like Gorley Kempt, 
he was carried through the shaft to the man-rake. 

When McDonald appeared on the stretcher at the pit- 
head, the crowd again surged forward. Some applauded 
and some wept. In a few minutes, another ambulance 
roared away to the hospital. 

Eldred Lowther followed Joe McDonald. Then came 

152 Miracle at Springhill 

Teddy Michniak, Levi Milley, Bowman Maddison, Wil- 
fred Hunter, Caleb Rushton, Harold Brine, Hugh Guthro, 
Joe Holloway, and Larry Leadbetter. 

Leadbetter thought he was in good shape. He felt fine, 
he told the rescuers below ground. "I'm gonna walk out 
of here and then I'm gonna walk home/' he said as 
workers tried to lift him onto a stretcher. He took several 
steps forward, and staggered, as arms reached out to 
support him. Leadbetter, like the others, was carried out 
on a stretcher. 

At 5:02 A.M., Thursday, October 30, the last ambulance 
left the mine grounds for All Saints Hospital. The rescue 
of twelve men was complete. 

The people who had waited in the rain at the pithead 
now appeared at the hospital, anxious to talk to the sur- 
vivors, to see them, touch them. Women, whose husbands 
and sons were still unreported below ground, cried as 
they stood on the stone steps outside the hospital, huddled 
together for warmth in the cold rain. One question burned 
in their minds. They wanted to ask the survivors if they 
had seen their men below ground. But they were not 
allowed in the building. It was not cruel, it was necessary. 
The men were weak. They needed medical attention. 
Above all, they needed the best therapy in the world for 
them, the sight and touch of their own wives and chil- 

Even before doctors began administering plasma to 
the survivors, before they removed the grimy clothing 
or began to wash away dirt from their bodies, the women 
and children who had waited six and a half agonizing 
days were allowed into the ward. 

"Stay Where You Are!" 153 

The men were filthy and gaunt; eyes sunk in their heads 
and black, coal-stained beards made them appear unreal. 

Margaret Guthro, blinded by tears, raced into the ward 
with the other women. She thought she recognized her 
Hughie and ran to his bedside and hugged him. 

"That isn't Hughie, Margie/' a woman laughingly told 
her. "That's Joe Holloway!" 

Startled, Margaret looked at the black face of the miner 
in the bed. He was smiling at her. 

"Joe?" she asked. 

Holloway nodded. 

"Well, I'm glad to see you, too," she said. She leaned 
over and gave him a kiss and then hurried down the 
aisle between the beds until she found her husband. 
She threw herself into his outstretched arms, giving vent 
to all the emotion stored up in those long, terrible hours 
of waiting. When she stood up, her face was as black as 
her husband's. Tears had washed the dust and dirt onto 
the front of her dress. 

Levi Milley was in bed, trying to pull off his grimy 
trousers, when Judy rushed in with her mother just behind 

"Hi, Judy," Levi called out, when he spotted his smiling 
child. He said it as if he had seen her every day for the 
past six days. "How's about getting your Dad another 
pillow here?" 

Judy was too excited to answer, but dashed off to find 
a nurse who would get a pillow. 

Velda did not run to her husband's bedside. Her legs 
would not react the way she wanted them to. When she 

154 Miracle at Springhill 

reached the bed, she was shaking and felt faint. She 
leaned over to kiss her man, to touch his face, to caress his 
dirt-encrusted forehead. 

Milley felt his wife's slender body quivering. "Don't 
worry, hon," he said, trying to console her. "Don't worry/' 
he repeated. "I'll be home soon. This finishes me with 
the mines." 

Velda did not answer. A great sob welled up in her and 
she bent over once more to kiss and hug her husband. 

Milley tried to comfort her. "You know, I tried to sell 
one of the doctors some of our chickens on the way up." 
He laughed and Velda, tears streaming down her cheeks, 
looked at him and laughed too. 

"At least you won't have to worry about money for a 
while," Milley continued. "I'll be getting compensation." 

"Who cares about money?" Velda answered, giving him 
another hug. "J uc ty an( ^ ^ have you back." 

At this moment, Judy appeared, breathless, and with a 
pillow. She propped it behind her father's head, leaned 
over and kissed him. Then she spoke for the first time to 
her father. "Hi, Dad," she said softly. 

Bowman Maddison could not speak when his wife and 
children reached his bedside. He looked at their faces 
and began to sob. They were faces he had never expected 
to see again. 

Solange wept and embraced her husband. "Oh, Bowsie, 
Bowsie, I thought you were gone. I thought we'd never 
have you back!" 

Alden pushed his way to his father's side. "I prayed for 
you, Daddy. I never stopped. And I took care of Mom, 
too." He kissed his father. 

"Stay Where You Are!" 155 

Zora stood at the foot of the bed and stared. This was 
the girl who never left the pithead until she received the 
news that her father was safe; now, she did not utter a 
word. She could not. Great tears cascaded down her 
cheeks and she made no effort to wipe them away. 

Maddison looked away from Solange and Alden, at his 
daughter. "How are you, dear?" he asked. 

The girl ran to the side of the bed sobbing and shaking. 
"Oh, Daddy, Daddy, I love you so!" 

By noontime, doctors had finished examining the 
twelve men and announced that they were in "surprising'* 

Each survivor had lost only about ten pounds. Their 
eyesight was unimpaired, despite the six and a half days 
in darkness. No aftereffects were expected. 

Joe McDonald would have to remain in the hospital 
for some time, in traction, while his dislocated and 
fractured hip mended. 

Teddy Michniak had a broken shoulder and would be 
hospitalized for several weeks. 

Wilfred Hunter's left leg was in bad shape. Doctors 
were not sure they would be able to save it. They were 
afraid of gangrene. 

But the others would probably be discharged within 
a week. All had been given plasma to restore their 
strength. Solid foods would be given to them gradually. 

Rescue workers had a grim report to make later in 
the day. At least twenty-four bodies had been located 
in the general area where the rescue took place. The 
gladness and joy of the town quickly turned again to 

156 Miracle at Springhill 

gloom. Once more the reality of the disaster struck home 
as tired rescue crews continued to push onward in the 
pits. They would not stop until all bodies were brought 
to the surface for burial. 


A Royal Visit 

Friday morning, October 31, dawned bleak and raw. The 
rain had stopped, but heavy clouds still blanketed the 
town. A chill wind whipped across the mine grounds and 
tugged at the flaps of the Salvation Army tents. Small 
knots of women huddled close together, their shawls 
pulled tightly about heir heads. They were the wives of 
men still below. All had the same thought. If they found 
twelve alive after so long, then maybe, maybe, they'd 
find another. Each hoped it would be her man. 

It was now more than a week since the bump had 
rocked the community. The toll of known dead stood at 
thirty-two men brought to the surface and identified. 
Ninety-three men, including the twelve so recently 
snatched from approaching death, had been rescued. 
Forty-nine men still remained unaccounted for in the 

During the morning, General Manager Harold C.M. 
Gordon made a televised and broadcast statement which 


158 Miracle at Springhill 

took the breath out of the town. In the main company 
office, the press had gathered to report his speech. Dirt 
still creased his face and his mouth was set in a thin line. 
His eyes told the story everyone expected. 

"It will take at least another week/' he said, "to fully 
explore the remaining sections of the mine at the present 
terribly slow rate of operations/' He paused for a moment 
to let his words have their effect. No one in the room 
stirred. "It pains me deeply to say this, but I cannot see 
how any men, if they are still alive, and mind you, I said 
'if/ can survive until we are able to reach them. Well 
keep going until all the bodies are brought up." He 
accented the word "bodies/ 5 

The press had a few questions. They understood what 
Gordon meant. How long, they asked, can a man survive 
in a black hell without food and water? How many days? 
The fact that twelve men did it for six and a half days 
was practically impossible to comprehend. But can a man 
go seven days, or eight or nine? 

"No," Gordon answered solemnly. 

Members of the press seemed to agree. 

But the rescue crews continued to chip their way for- 
ward through the black tunnels. And the women, at the 
pithead and at home, continued to wait. 

Maurice Ruddick was sure he heard noises in the morn- 
ing. At this point, he did not care what was causing them. 
They might even be the mine rats moving closer, sensing 
that men would soon be dead. Then the rats could begin 
feasting on the bodies. Ruddick shuddered and drove the 
thought from his mind. 

Doug Jewkes was talking once more about Seven-Up. 

A Royal Visit 159 

This time, he added a quart of ice cream. He would die 
happy, he said, if only he could have them both. 

"Shut up, Doug!" Ruddick called. It was the first time 
he had spoken harshly to any of his buddies and his voice 
surprised him. It sounded weak and thin, not like his 
at all. "Christ/' he thought, "my voice is changing to a 
tenor!" He felt his arms. They were thinner than he had 
ever known them to be. He rubbed his face and felt his 
beard. It itched something awful. "How did we ever last 
this long?" he asked himself. "I'm an animal now, trapped 
in a cage. We're all animals. We eat bark and we drink 
... we drink . . ." He could not bring himself to say it, 
even to himself. 

He tried to wet his lips. But his tongue was thick and 
coated. His lips hurt when he ran his tongue over them. 
They were cracked and dirt had gotten into the cracks. 
A wave of weakness, a light, cool feeling, swept over him. 
It passed quickly and he began to sweat. 

Garnet Clarke was awake. He had dozed off without 
realizing it. And when he awoke, he did not remember 
sleeping. The minutes and the hours and days were now 
one. Time was nothing. Everything was the same. He 
touched his arm. He pinched it. Would he ever awake or 
was all the world like this? 

The sound of noises in the distance, a million miles 
away, cleared his head. He nudged Currie Smith beside 
him. "You awake, Currie?" 

"Yeah, Fm awake." 

"You know today's Friday?" 

"So what?" 

"So nothing!" Clarke answered with distinct irritation. 

"Sorry," Smith said. "I just don't feel well." 

160 Miracle at Springhill 

"Neither do 1. 1 guess we all feel lousy/' Clarke paused. 
"When do you think it'll come?" 


"When do you think well die?" Clarke asked. 

"Soon, I hope. I can't take any more. I wish it happened 
right away. Why does it have to take so long?" 

Both men fell silent. Then Clarke spoke. "I don't feel 
like looking around any more. I haven't got any strength 
left. I can hardly move." 

Smith changed the subject. "What do you think hap- 
pened to Barney Martini He wondered about the un- 
conscious man, alone, without food or water. 

"Probably dead," Clarke replied. "He couldn't last, not 
in the shape he was in when we saw him. He's probably 
better off." 

They grew silent again. Even a brief conversation now 
taxed their strength. They could hear scratching and 
vibrations from somewhere, but they paid no attention 
any more. 

Maurice Ruddick was humming softly to himself. Then 
he began to recite slowly: 

Rock of Ages, cleft for me, 

Let me hide myself in Thee . . . 

The others listened in the warm darkness. Garnet 
Clarke joined him and sang in a hoarse whisper. 

Let the water and the blood, 

From Thy wounded side which flowed, 

Be of sin the double cure, 

Save from wrath and make me pure. 

The two men paused to catch their breaths. 

A Royal Visit 161 

"Sing some more/' Currie Smith asked. 

"Please/' said Frank Hunter. "It makes us feel better/' 

Ruddick and Clarke began again: 

Could my tears forever flow, 
Could my zeal no languor know, 
These for sin could not atone; 
Thou must save, and Thou alone; 
In my hand no price I bring; 
Simply to Thy cross I cling. 

Barney Martin was, incredibly, still alive. But he was 
in an advanced stage of delirium. 

For nearly eight days he had been without food or 
water in complete darkness. By animal instinct alone, in 
his infrequent periods of consciousness he had scratched 
and clawed, trying to dig his way out of the shallow 
pocket in the ground. His nails were now broken and 
jagged, his fingers bloody and sore. 

Each time he awoke, he scratched again and tried to 
pull himself forward. But his body was numb and he could 
barely move. He retched but nothing came up. Barney 
Martin no longer knew where he was or how he had got 
there. He was alone in a private Hell. 

Above ground, late in the afternoon, the weather turned 
even colder and the wind began blowing in gusts. At 
4:25 P.M. a sleek B.O.A.C. jet airliner touched down at 
the airport at Moncton, New Brunswick. His Royal High- 
ness Prince Philip, en route from Ottawa to London, had 
come to visit Springhill at the request of the Queen. 

Philip stepped briskly from the plane and into a lim- 
ousine, and sped the sixty miles to SpringhilTs All Saints 

162 Miracle at Springhill 

Hospital. At 5:50 P.M. the car glided up the long, concrete 
driveway in front of the building and stopped. 

Crowds waited outside the hospital in the damp cold, 
eager to catch a glimpse of the Prince. There were chil- 
dren, with painted faces and white sheets draped over 
their bodies, for it was Halloween. Tragedy might grip 
the town, but for the youngsters, too young to compre- 
hend, the fun of Halloween had to be observed. 

Those who waited were silent as Philip left the car and 
strode into the hospital. That night in Springhill, with 
Harold Gordon's statement still vividly etched on their 
hearts, the people of the town were in gloom. 

Philip entered the hospital in the glare of television 
lights and photographers' flash bulbs, and was escorted 
to the twelve survivors. 

They looked like different men. Their beards were gone. 
Their faces were clean. They smiled. But inside, the 
haunting memory of their entrapment would probably be 
with them the rest of their lives. 

Administrator Tibbetts was in shirtsleeves when the 
Prince entered the ward. Mud from the depths of the 
mine still stained the floor. 

Philip strode to the first bed, occupied by Harold 
Brine. "You don't look like you should be in bed," he said 
with a smile. "I hear you're the man who dug out one of 
his comrades." He patted Brine on the shoulder and 
walked to the next bed. 

Joe McDonald's leg was in traction. A bottle of plasma, 
suspended by the side of his bed, was feeding slowly 
through a tube into his arm. Despite this, he grinned 
broadly at the Prince. 

"You had a long wait underground/' Philip said. 

A Royal Visit 163 

"Yes, we all did. From now on, I want the sky for my 

Wilfred Hunter waited nervously for Philip to ap- 
proach. His leg, swathed in bandages, still hurt, and his 
heart pounded strongly. But it was a different kind of 
pounding than that he had felt below ground. 

The Prince reached his bed and paused to chat. But 
Hunter was at a loss for words. "Thank you for coming," 
he managed to say. 

When Philip stopped by Levi Milley's bed, the thin- 
faced miner had a paper and pencil ready. He held them 
out. "Would you sign this for my daughter?" 

Royalty never gives autographs and Milley knew it. 
But what was there to lose? 

The Prince took the paper arid pencil and signed Philip. 

Then he turned to Caleb Rushton. "I hear you kept the 
others alive with your singing." 

Rushton laughed, embarrassed. 

When Philip emerged, a light rain had begun to fall 
and the people had disappeared. The children had been 
taken home, their Halloween cut short by cold and rain. 

The royal party drove to the muddy mine grounds and 
parked near the manager's office. Gordon briefly outlined 
the rescue work as they walked together through the mud 
to the pithead. "It still doesn't seem possible that twelve 
men survived for so long," he said. 

"Is it possible that any more are still alive?" 

"I hardly think so." 

The Prince shook his head. 

The visit and inspection at the mine was brief, for 
rescue work was still in progress. The next stop was the 
United Baptist Church, headquarters for the Red Cross. 

164 Miracle at Springhill 

On the way out of the church, Philip asked to be taken 
to the home of one of the men lost in the bump. 

He was driven to Cowan Street, to the home of Mrs. 
Harold Raper, whose husband's body was the twenty- 
fourth recovered from the pit. Mrs. Raper had been sitting 
in the living room, watching the visit on television. She 
had switched off the set when the announcer reported that 
Philip had left the church and that his destination was 

She did not hear them come in the door. When she 
looked up, Philip was standing there. He walked to her 
and took both hands in his. "I'm so sorry," he said. 

The Prince and the widow looked at each other for 
what seemed a long time. Finally she gasped, apologized, 
and asked him to sit down on the divan. 

"What do you think about the mine?" he asked. 

"I think it should be padlocked," she answered. "All 
we want here is a good industry that would keep the men 
out of the mines. It's a good town, with good people." 

In a few moments, the visitor left. On his way to the 
front door, without asking, he paused at the Memoriam 
Book on the hall table, opened it and wrote: Philip, 31 
October, 1958. 


An Anniversary 

The hands on Maurice Ruddick's watch clung together 
like lovers at midnight. 

He could barely make them out. It was a luminous 
watch, but eight and a half days in darkness had taken 
the luminosity out of it. It needed light again in order 
to glow in the dark. 

Another day, he thought to himself. How many more? 
What day is it? All the days and nights ran into each 
other. He decided it must be Saturday. 

"It's a new month, too/' he muttered to himself. "No- 
vember first, a new month/' Then the thought struck him. 
"Boys," he announced quietly, "we've got an anniversary 

"What are you talking about, Maurice?" Garnet Clarke 
asked. "What kind of an anniversary?" 

"Two years ago today Number Four blew up." Ruddick 
said it just to make conversation. 

"How's that gonna help us?" Clarke wanted to know. 


166 Miracle at Springhill 

"I just thought I'd mention it, that's all." 

"Wouldn't it be funny if we all died today, on the an- 
niversary?" Doug Jewkes asked. 

"What's so damn funny about that?" asked Clarke. "Big 

Ruddick was silent, pondering the conversation he had 
started. Yeah, wouldn't it be funny if we all died on the 
anniversary? God, let it be over with. WeVe all had 
enough. We keep hearing noises but nothing happens. 
Funny, I can't hear them now. They must have knocked 
off for the weekend. Someday they'll find us. Just enough 
left to bury after the rats get through with us. Maybe if 
I go to sleep I won't wake up. 

He stretched out and rested his head on a pile of rock. 

Above ground a cold southwest wind blew a shower of 
snow through the air. It melted as it touched ground. 

At 2:00 A.M., a crew of rescue workers awoke on the 
hard wooden benches in the Wash House. It was time to 
return to the pits. 

Vice-President Harold Gordon appeared in the room, 
dressed in coveralls. He wore his helmet, and a can of 
water hung from his belt. He was ready to go down again. 
"Ready boys?" he asked softly. "It's time." 

The men nodded. One by one they rose from the 
benches, yawned and stretched and reached for their 
shoes on the floor. Then each man picked up his helmet 
where he had left it near the shoes. 

Overman Bill Miller, whose wiriness belied his sixty- 
two years, walked to the door. He and Gordon were 
joined by Bud Kenwood, deputy overman. Then Ken 
Murray and John Calder walked over. "We're ready," 

An Anniversary 167 

one of them said. Leonard Boss, Vernon Barry, Matt 
Pearson, Bill Downey, James Rossong, and Dan O'Rourke 
completed the crew. 

They moved silently out of the Wash House, across 
fifty feet of muddy ground to the Lamp Cabin. Their 
lamps were snapped into place on their helmets. Freshly 
charged batteries hung from their belts. 

The men were tired. They did not relish the thought 
of the hours ahead, crawling on their bellies, digging 
and chipping through rock and coal, only to find more 
bodies. It would be more of the same. They would pass 
the bucket in a long line from the man in front, who 
filled it, to the man in back, who had to look desperately 
for a place to dump it. 

They filled their water cans and walked single file from 
the Lamp Cabin. It was nearly over. Only a few more 
days. They were already working in the 13,000-foot level. 
There was not much area left to search. Then they could 
go home and rest. 

The floodlights in the yard outlined the men in the 
morning darkness as they bowed their heads to keep the 
swirling snow from their eyes. It was cold. It would be 
warmer, much warmer, in the mine. 

Harold Gordon led them in as another group, sore and 
weary, scuffled by on their way to a few hours sleep on 
the wooden benches. 

Barney Martin still lived. Somehow, he kept his hands 
moving. They were red-raw, like chunks of meat in a 
butcher store window. But he kept scratching and clawing 
for life. He felt he would die if he remained still. 

He tried to dig his fingers into the dirt and to pull 

168 Miracle at Springhill 

himself out into the light. But there never seemed to be 
any light. There was nothing. No one. He was alone. 

He did not even feel hunger any more. Only thirst. If 
only he could dig and keep digging until water spouted 
up from the ground. 

He pushed his fingers deep into the dirt and pulled 
again, trying to move his body forward. The pain spread 
from his finger tips and shot down his arms. He fell un- 

Maurice Ruddick awoke at 3:30 A.M. I'm still alive, he 
thought grimly. Why do I stay alive? Does God want it 
that way? Is there something He wants me to do? 

Ruddick sat up, his body aching and stiff. "Anyone 

"I'm awake/' answered Garnet Clarke. 

"Me, too," said Doug Jewkes. "I was lying here just 
thinking about Seven-Up. I tried not to. Honest. I just 
can't help it." He said it apologetically, remembering that 
Ruddick had become angry with him before for talking 
about it so much. This time, Ruddick said nothing. 

Currie Smith nudged Clarke. 

"What is it, Currie?" Clarke asked. 

"We're getting closer to the end. I can feel it. I don't 
care what happens any more. That's how I know." 

"I don't even want to talk about it," Clarke replied. "I've 
been thinking about the same thing." 

"Me, too," Ruddick said. "Maybe we should try once 
more on the pipe. Just once more. For the last time." 

The men pondered the suggestion. "I'll do it," Smith 
finally said. It was better than sitting still. 

At 4.00 A.M., Currie Smith and Maurice Ruddick 

An Anniversary 169 

crawled to the broken air pipe. They did not feel it would 
do any good. But Smith began to tap slowly on the pipe 
with an empty water can. 

Harold Gordon and his crew were flat on their stomachs, 
passing the bucket that Bud Kenwood slowly filled. Per- 
spiration stained their shirts and the coal dust clung to 
the wet surface. 

"Here comes another one/* Kenwood called back. He 
arched his back and twisted the bucket around his body 
to pass it to the man behind. Slowly, the bucketful of 
coal and rock moved to the end man. He dumped it to 
one side and it made a small cloud of dust that smarted 
his eyes. He quickly sent the empty bucket back up the 

"It's almost solid up ahead/' Kenwood called to the 
man behind him. "It's really packed in tight." He was 
using a pick with a sawed-off handle. With it, he filled 
the bucket again. 

At 4:30 A.M., Kenwood uncovered a section of com- 
pressed air pipe. "We're moving in the right direction/' 
he quietly announced. 

Barney Martin regained consciousness once more. 
When he opened his eyes it was no different than when 
they were closed. He blinked several times but nothing 
happened. He could not blink away the darkness. 

Painfully, he pushed his arms in front of him and tried 
again to dig his fingers into the dirt. He wanted des- 
perately to grab something solid. But the dirt rolled back 
and trickled down his neck. He began to sob in the black- 
ness of the mine. 

170 Miracle at Springhill 

He opened his mouth to cry out in anguish and voiced 
a deep croak. He tried again and again to call, to scream. 
But he could only groan and sob, and claw at the dirt. 

Maurice Ruddick and Currie Smith sprawled at the air 
pipe. Smith was sweating, dizzy from the simple exertion 
of tapping on the pipe. "It's no use, Maurice/' he panted. 
"I can't do it any more." He lay back, still clutching the 
empty water can. 

"Let rne try it for a while," Ruddick said, sliding closer 
to the pipe. 

Currie Smith held out the water can and Ruddick took 
it. He tapped several times, slowly, deliberately. 

"Why does it have to be this way?" Smith asked. 

"I don't know, Currie. I don't know." 

"We could have died in an automobile accident or in 
bed of old age. But not like this. Like animals in a filthy, 
stinking hole." His voice began to rise. 

Ruddick tapped harder on the pipe to distract Smith. 
"We don't pick the way we die, Currie. The good Lord 
does that." 

"But why here?" 

"I guess because He figured we were . . . well, like we 
were born in here. Since we were kids we worked in the 
mines. Maybe that's what He figured. We spent so much 
of our lives in here that when our time came, we should 
die in here." 

"We can't argue about that," Smith said. 

"No, we can't." He kept on with his rhythmical tapping. 

At 4:45 A.M., Bud Henwood told the others in his crew 

An Anniversary 171 

that he could no longer move a muscle. He was near ex- 
haustion. "Someone take over for me/' he said. 

He pulled himself back out of the hole he had chipped 
and rolled to one side, making room for the next man 
to move up to his place. 

Exhaustion and heat had made the men silent. There 
was nothing to talk about, anyway. 

Tap . . . tap . . . tap . . . 

Matt Pearson heard it first. 

No one had said a word, but Pearson called, "Be quiet!" 

The men listened intently. Then it came again. 

Tap . . . tap . . . tap . . . 

"Hear that? Hear that?" Pearson was shouting now. 

The tapping was distinct. "There's at least one alive!" 
shouted Kenwood. "Maybe more!" 

"Get word to the top quick," Harold Gordon called. 
"Let them know/' 

Gordon could scarcely believe it. Everything rational 
told him that no one should be tapping on the pipe. By 
all rights, anyone on the other end should be dead. But 
there it was! 

At Gordon's command, Bill Downey backed quickly out 
of line. He tumbled over rock and scraped his knees in 
frenzied haste. He crawled through the shaft and raced 
on two feet when there was room. Finally, he reached the 
emergency phone strung down from the 7,800-foot level. 
He picked it up and waited for what seemed like hours. 

"Yes? Hello," came a voice. 

Downey could not speak. His heart thumped hard 
in his chest. 

"Hello. Hello." 

Downey swallowed, clearing his throat. "We heard 

172 Miracle at Springhill 

tappings on a pipe!" he yelled. "Tappings!" he repeated. 
"There's someone alive down here!" He hung up without 
waiting for the inevitable questions. He tumbled and 
bumped and crawled back to rejoin the crew. 

They worked like crazy men, with their picks and their 
bare hands. They tore at the wall with a fury they had 
never before known. Their lungs felt as though they 
would burst. Their throats ached, raw from the dust. But 
they did not stop, even to drink. They filled bucket after 
bucket with stone and coal, and gradually inched their 
way forward. 

In fifty minutes, at 5:35 A.M., they broke through the 
last of twelve solid feet of rock and coal. 

"Quiet, everyone," Gordon commanded hoarsely. 

The men listened. 

Ken Murray heard it first. "What is it?" he whispered. 

"Sounds like a cat scratching," answered Dan O'Rourke. 

"There's no cats down here," Murray answered. "There 
it goes again. Sounds like pebbles falling, or something. 
I can't make it out." 

"It's coming from this direction," Henwood called, and 
he plunged through an opening in the wall. The others 

Henwood kept turning his head, so that his helmet light 
would flash in every direction. It played on the walls, and 
weird shadows danced on the shiny coal. "Jesus!" he 
suddenly exclaimed, sucking in his breath. "Look at that!" 

He crawled over to the body of Barney Martin. 

"He's alive," Henwood said, leaning over Martin. "He's 
breathing!" He called for the others, and their lamps 
lighted up the scene. 

An Anniversary 173 

"Look at those fingers!" Kenwood exclaimed. "That 
must have been the scratching we heard/' 

Barney Martin opened his eyes. The sight of another 
face, after eight and a half days, gave him the strength 
to smile. He had scratched his way out of darkeness into 
light. "God must have saved this little hole for me/' he 

Harold Gordon spoke up next. "Give him some water. 
Not too much at first. Somebody stay here with him." 
Then he turned to Bud Henwood. "Bud, get upstairs and 
get a doctor here quick!" Henwood moved away toward 
the surface. 

"Follow me," called Gordon. He crawled toward an 
opening, the same that Garnet Clarke and Currie Smith 
had come through when they first stumbled over Barney 

The men chipped at the small opening. Within twenty 
minutes, they smashed their way through. They did not 
know what to expect, what they would find. 

Maurice Ruddick and the others had heard them. They 
were waiting, tears of joy streaming down their cheeks. 

When Harold Gordon appeared in the opening, his 
lamp outlined the figure of Ruddick, who was sitting on 
a stack of stone, a grin on his face. 

"Maurice! It's Maurice Ruddick!" one of the rescuers 
yelled at the scarecrow before them. Despite the dirt and 
days of suffering, the rescuers knew The Singing Miner. 

"Sing us a song, Maurice!" 

Ruddick straightened his back and held his head up 
proudly. His words reflected the faith and courage, and 

174 Miracle at Springhill 

the humor, that had kept these men alive against what 
seemed impossible odds. 

"Give us a drink and 111 sing you a song!" he fairly 



By 9:15 on the morning of November 1, 1958, the rescue 
of the seven men was complete. 

Most of the group, led by Maurice Ruddick, walked 
part of the way out of the pit, to a point where they were 
placed on stretchers and carried to the surface. 

Barney Martin was too weak to walk. He was taken out 
first, semiconscious. When he reached the exit, he sensed 
that a crowd had gathered. The snow squall was over 
and a bright sun was shining. Martin, hearing voices, 
ripped off his blindfold and waved to the crowd. 

At All Saints Hospital, the men were immediately ex- 
amined. Each had lost about ten pounds, but like the 
others, who had been rescued two days earlier, they 
would all survive. 

Then came the reunions with their families. Wives of 
the men, and their children, had waited patiently in the 
corridors of the hospital until doctors announced that the 
examinations were over. 


176 Miracle at Springhill 

The women made no effort to fight back tears as they 
hurried down the aisles between beds to find their men. 

Mabel Smith's eyes were red from crying as she flung 
herself into her husband's arms. Earlier, at home, where 
she had heard the news of the rescue, she had leaned on 
the refrigerator and wept. Her nine-year-old son, who had 
rushed home to tell his mother, had broken into tears, 
too. It had taken many minutes for mother and son to 
regain their composure. Now, they were at Currie Smith's 
bedside and the tears began again. 

Mrs. Norma Ruddick led four of her twelve children 
toward Maurice Ruddick's bedand the children dashed 
to embrace their father. For a moment, Norma stood by 
and watched. Then she leaned over the bed and stroked 
her husband's hair. She did not say a word until Maurice 
spoke. "We made it, honey. We made it." But she held his 
face between her hands and kissed him 011 the forehead 
and the mouth. 

"God bless you dear," she finally managed to say. 

Seven-year-old Dean nudged his way between his par- 
ents. "Daddy, can I come up in the bed with you?" 

"Sure. Come on, climb up here." 

The boy scampered into the bed and nestled himself 
in the cradle of his father's arm. 

Maurice leaned over and kissed his child. 

Garnet Clarke's father sat by his son's bedside, smiling. 
He kept staring at his boy and repeating, over and over, 
"I knew you'd make it, son. I knew you'd make it." 

Young Clarke reached over and took his father's hand. 

Aftermath 177 

He squeezed it and smiled back. "Wish me a happy birth- 
day, Dad. I wasn't around when it came!" 

But the reunions were brief. The doctors said the men 
needed attention washing and scrubbing, sleeping pills, 
plasma. So the families left, reluctantly, secure in the 
knowledge that an unbelievably happy ending had oc- 
curred for them. 

For several days rescue crews continued to explore the 
mine, but they found no one else alive. 

At 8:30 P.M. on Thursday, November 6, exactly two 
weeks after the bump, a crew found and removed the 
last body, that of thirty-nine-year-old Fidele Allen. His 
wife, Sadie, had waited at the pithead until the very end. 

The count now stood at one hundred men rescued, 
seventy-four dead 

On the day after Allen's body was brought to the sur- 
face, the Dominion Steel and Coal Corporation an- 
nounced that the shattered No. 2 Colliery would be 
permanently closed, ending coal mining in Springhill and 
wiping out the only industry in the town. 

On November 12, Wilfred Hunter's left leg was am- 
putated between the hip and the knee. On November 23, 
a month to the day after the bump, the death toll rose 
to seventy-five. William Stevenson, rescued among the 
first, died in All Saints Hospital. He had broken a leg, 
an arm and one shoulder, but seemed well on the way 
to recovery when his heart just stopped. 

By Christmas all the rescued men had been released 
from hospital except Joe McDonald, whose hip was heal- 
ing slowly. But on the following day, another casualty 

178 Miracle at Springhill 

was added to the list when Mayor Ralph Gilroy collapsed 
from exhaustion. He had toured practically all Canada, 
speaking for the Springhill Disaster Relief Fund, trying 
to find new industry for the town. He had managed only 
to attract a small woodworking plant. 

Not for six months did Joe McDonald move from the 
hospital. Then, on May 30, 1959, his fortieth birthday, he 
was finally released and brought home on a stretcher. It 
would be many more months before he could walk again 
and at least a year before the stiffness left his leg. 

Toward the end of June the Canadian federal govern- 
ment announced location of a new prison farm near 
Springhill. A storage battery manufacturer decided to 
move his plant to Springhill, too. At least some of the men 
would be able to find jobs. 

Meanwhile, skeleton crews worked in the mine, salvag- 
ing what they could for other mines of the Dominion 
Steel and Coal Corporation. 

One hundred and twenty-one years had passed since 
coal was discovered in Springhill. They had been years of 
sweat, heartbreak, and hope. 

At first, coal had seemed synonymous with wealth. It 
had brought miners and their families to the town, and 
given hope that Springhill would prosper. 

But eventually, cheaper fuels invaded the markets of 
Canada and the United States, and mining with its anti- 
quated and costly methods could not effectively compete. 
When the danger factor was added to the other costs, the 
price of coal became prohibitive. 

Thus it was that, at the end of July, 1959, the No. 2 
Colliery was sealed off. And the fate of a town was sealed. 


I am indebted to the residents of Springhill and to officials of 
the Dominion Steel and Coal Corporation for their generous 
cooperation and assistance. Without their help the Springhill 
story could not have been told. 

C. Arnold Patterson, public relations manager for Domin- 
ion, very kindly made all the company's information about 
the disaster available to me. He was also most helpful in ex- 
plaining technical points and in providing photographs of 

Doug Harkness, formerly of Radio Station CKCW in 
Moncton, New Brunswick, now with the Canadian Press in 
Halifax, Nova Scotia, provided invaluable weather data. 

Ted Caldwell and Charlie Allbon of the Springhill Record 
gave me many details that might otherwise have been over- 
looked. They were more than generous with their time. 

Bert Chapman, of the Carleton Hotel in Springhill, pro- 
vided much helpful background on the town. 

The survivors, Maurice Ruddick, Garnet Clarke, Levi 
Milley, Bowman Maddison, and their families, submitted to 
endless questioning. I am astounded by, and grateful for, their 

Mrs. Charles Burton, whose husband was killed, supplied 
important information, as did her sister-in-law, Mrs. Katherine 

George Calder, the Resident Mine Manager in Springhill, 
and Harry Weatherbee, the Lamp Room foreman, supplied ex- 
act and detailed information about the rescues. I am in- 
debted to them for their help. 

And finally, I want to thank the editors of the Boston Globe, 
for assigning me to cover the 1956 and 1958 disasters in Spring-